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OBJECTIVE: Cigarette smoking impairs peripheral endothelium-dependent vasodilatation and acute tissue plasminogen activator (t-PA) release in man. The aim of the study was to determine if this endothelial dysfunction is, in part, mediated by the effects of nicotine. METHODS: Blood flow and plasma fibrinolytic factors were measured in both forearms of eight healthy male non-smokers during unilateral brachial artery infusion of the endothelium-dependent vasodilator, substance P (2 to 8 pmol/min). Endothelium-independent vasodilatation was assessed using intra-arterial infusion of sodium nitroprusside (2 to 8 microg/min). Subjects attended after 7 days treatment with transdermal nicotine or placebo in a double blind randomised crossover design. RESULTS: Plasma cotinine concentrations rose from 0.4+/-0.1 (placebo) to 125+/-25 ng/ml during nicotine administration (P<0.001). On both treatment days, substance P caused dose-dependent increases in blood flow and plasma t-PA antigen and activity concentrations (P<0.001 for all) but had no effect on plasma plasminogen activator inhibitor type 1 (PAI-1) concentrations. Compared with placebo, nicotine administration increased the substance-P-induced release of t-PA antigen and activity (P<0.05 for both) without an effect on endothelium-dependent or -independent vasodilatation. CONCLUSIONS: Short-term transdermal nicotine treatment does not affect endothelium-dependent vasomotion but does increase substance-P-induced t-PA release in vivo in man. This suggests that nicotine administration alters specific aspects of endothelial function and enhances the acute endogenous fibrinolytic capacity in vivo. The long-term effects of nicotine exposure, including the potential to cause depletion of endothelial t-PA stores, now needs to be assessed.

Original publication




Journal article


Cardiovasc res

Publication Date





321 - 327


Administration, Cutaneous, Adult, Antigens, Brachial Artery, Cotinine, Cross-Over Studies, Dose-Response Relationship, Drug, Double-Blind Method, Endothelium, Vascular, Fibrinolysis, Humans, Male, Nicotine, Nitroprusside, Plethysmography, Regional Blood Flow, Substance P, Time Factors, Tissue Plasminogen Activator, Vasodilator Agents