Low Mercury Concentration Produces Vasoconstriction, Decreases Nitric Oxide Bioavailability and Increases Oxidative Stress in Rat Conductance Artery
Mercury is an environmental pollutant that reduces nitric oxide (NO) bioavailability and increases oxidative stress, having a close link with cardiovascular diseases, as carotid atherosclerosis, myocardial infarction, coronary heart disease and hypertension. One of the main sites affected by oxidative stress, which develops atherosclerosis, is the aorta. Under acute exposure to low mercury concentrations reactive oxygen species (ROS) production were only reported for resistance vessels but if low concentrations of mercury also affect conductance arteries it is still unclear. We investigated the acute effects of 6 nM HgCl2 on endothelial function of aortic rings measuring the reactivity to phenylephrine in rings incubated, or not, with HgCl2 for 45 min, the protein expression for cyclooxygenase 2 (COX-2) and the AT1 receptor. HgCl2 increased Rmax and pD2 to phenylephrine without changing the vasorelaxation induced by acetylcholine and sodium nitroprusside. Endothelial damage abolished the increased reactivity to phenylephrine. The increase of Rmax and pD2 produced by L-NAME was smaller in the presence of HgCl2. Enalapril, losartan, indomethacin, furegrelate, the selective COX-2 inhibitor NS 398, superoxide dismutase and the NADPH oxidase inhibitor apocynin reverted HgCl2 effects on the reactivity to phenylephrine, COX-2 protein expression was increased, and AT1 expression reduced. At low concentration, below the reference values, HgCl2 increased vasoconstrictor activity by reducing NO bioavailability due to increased ROS production by NADPH oxidase activity. Results suggest that this is due to local release of angiotensin II and prostanoid vasoconstrictors. Results also suggest that acute low concentration mercury exposure, occurring time to time could induce vascular injury due to endothelial oxidative stress and contributing to increase peripheral resistance, being a high risk factor for public health.