Heart Rate-Dependent Stiffening of Large Arteries in Intact and Sympathectomized Rats

Luca Mircoli, Arduino A. Mangoni, Cristina Giannattasio, Giuseppe Mancia, Alberto U. Ferrari

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66 Citations (Scopus)


In the anesthetized rat, acute increases in heart rate are accompanied by a reduction in arterial distensibility, which is a significant phenomenon in elastic-type vessels such as the common carotid but much less evident in muscle-type vessels such as the femoral artery. Because the sympathetic nervous system importantly reduces arterial distensibility, the present study aimed to determine whether sympathetic influences (1) are involved in the heart rate-dependent changes in arterial distensibility and (2) exert differential effects on elastic-type versus muscle-type arteries. To address this issue, 9 sympathectomized (6-hydroxydopamine) and 10 vehicle-treated, 12-week-old, pentobarbitone-anesthetized Wistar-Kyoto rats were subjected to atrial pacing via a transjugular catheter at 5 different randomly sequenced rates (280, 310, 340, 370, and 400 bpm). After each step, spontaneous sinus rhythm was allowed to return to normal. Common carotid and femoral artery diameters were measured by an echo Doppler device (NIUS 01), and blood pressure was measured via catheter inserted into the contralateral vessel. Arterial distensibility was calculated over the systolic-diastolic pressure range according to the Langewouters formula. In the common carotid artery, progressive increases in heart rate determined progressive and marked reductions of distensibility (range, 15% to 43%) in sympathectomized and intact rats. In the femoral artery, the stiffening effect of tachycardia was present in sympathectomized rats (range, 21% to 42%), at variance with the inconsistent changes observed in intact rats. In conclusion, our experiments support the notions (1) that in predominantly elastic-type arteries, the stiffening effect of tachycardia is exerted independently of sympathetic modulation of the vessel wall properties and (2) that in predominantly muscle-type arteries, removal of sympathetic influences unmasks the stiffening effect of tachycardia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)598-602
Number of pages5
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Arterial pressure
  • Atrial
  • Heart rate
  • Pacing
  • Rats
  • Sympathetic nervous system
  • Ultrasonography


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