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The role of nitric oxide (NO) in the vagal modulation of heart rate (HR) is controversial. We tested the hypothesis that NO acts via a pre-synaptic, guanylyl cyclase (GC) dependent pathway. The effects of inhibiting NO synthase (NOS) and GC were evaluated in isolated atrial/right vagal nerve preparations from adult (550-750 g) and young (150-250 g) female guinea pigs. Levels of NOS protein were quantified in right atria using Western blotting and densitometry. The non-specific NOS inhibitor N- omega -nitro- L -arginine (L -NA, 100 microM, n=5) significantly reduced the negative chronotropic response to vagal nerve stimulation (VNS) at 3 and 5 Hz in the adult guinea pig. This effect was reversed with 1 m ML -arginine. Similar results were observed with the specific neuronal NOS inhibitor vinyl-N5-(1-imino-3-butenyl)- L -ornithine (L -VNIO, 100 microM, n=7). Inhibition of GC with 1H-(1,2,4)-oxadiazolo-(4, 3-a)-quinoxalin-1-one (ODQ, 10 microM, n=7) also significantly reduced the negative chronotropic response to VNS at 3 and 5 Hz in adult guinea pigs. Neither L -NA (n=6), L -VNIO (n=5) nor ODQ (n=6) changed the HR response to cumulative doses of carbamylcholine in adult guinea pig atria suggesting that the action of NO is pre-synaptic. The HR response to VNS was unaffected by L -NA (n=7) or ODQ (n=7) in young guinea pigs and Western blot analysis showed significantly lower levels of nNOS protein in right atria from young animals. These results suggest a pre-synaptic NO-cGMP pathway modulates cardiac cholinergic transmission, although this may depend on the developmental stage of the guinea pig.

Original publication




Journal article


J Mol Cell Cardiol

Publication Date





1795 - 1804


Age Factors, Animals, Aortic Bodies, Arginine, Blotting, Western, Carbachol, Cardiotonic Agents, Cyclic GMP, Digestive System, Enzyme Inhibitors, Female, Guanylate Cyclase, Guinea Pigs, Heart Atria, Nitric Oxide, Nitric Oxide Synthase, Nitroarginine, Ornithine, Oxadiazoles, Prosencephalon, Quinoxalines, Receptors, Atrial Natriuretic Factor, Time Factors