Inhibition of phosphodiesterase type 5 and exercise in arterial hypertension
Attinà, Teresa M.
Hypertensive patients exhibit impaired exercise capacity, a strong independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and the mechanisms responsible for this are not fully determined. Potential candidates may include endothelial vasomotor dysfunction and arterial stiffness, both of which are associated with hypertension. Impairment of the nitric oxide-cyclic guanosine monophosphate (NO-cGMP) pathway plays a major role in the development of these abnormalities, suggesting that enhancement of NO-cGMP signalling through phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5) inhibition may offer therapeutic potential in arterial hypertension. This thesis investigated the effects of the PDE5 inhibitor sildenafil citrate on exercise-induced vasodilatation, maximal exercise capacity and arterial stiffness in hypertensive patients, using different studies involving local limb and whole body exercise. Preliminary dose-ranging studies were initially performed to investigate the intraarterial (brachial) effects of sildenafil on forearm blood flow (FBF), and to select an appropriate, cGMP-independent, vasodilator to use as a control. On the basis on these studies, it was established that sildenafil, infused at 50μg/min, and verapamil, infused at 5μg/min, had similar vasodilator effect on FBF. Ten untreated hypertensive patients and ten matched normotensive subjects were then studied in a three-way, randomised, single-blind and placebo-controlled FBF study. The aim was to investigate the effects of sildenafil on handgrip exercise-induced vasodilatation, and to compare this response with verapamil and saline (placebo). Preinfusion exercise-induced vasodilatation was significantly reduced in hypertensive compared with normotensive subjects (P<0.001). However, after the infusions, while verapamil did not affect the vasodilator response to exercise in either group, sildenafil substantially enhanced this response in hypertensive patients, but not in normotensive subjects (P<0.05). These results suggested that sildenafil, through an increase in cGMP levels in the vasculature, substantially and selectively improves the vasodilator response to handgrip exercise in hypertensive patients.