Cold constricts cutaneous blood vessels by increasing the reactivity of smooth muscle alpha(2)-adrenergic receptors (alpha(2)-ARs). Experiments were performed to determine the role of alpha(2)-AR subtypes (alpha(2A)-, alpha(2B)-, alpha(2C)-ARs) in this response. Stimulation of alpha(1)-ARs by phenylephrine or alpha(2)-ARs by UK-14,304 caused constriction of isolated mouse tail arteries mounted in a pressurized myograph system. Compared with proximal arteries, distal arteries were more responsive to alpha(2)-AR activation but less responsive to activation of alpha(1)-ARs. Cold augmented constriction to alpha(2)-AR activation in distal arteries but did not affect the response to alpha(1)-AR stimulation or the level of myogenic tone. Western blot analysis demonstrated expression of alpha(2A)- and alpha(2C)-ARs in tail arteries: expression of alpha(2C)-ARs decreased in distal compared with proximal arteries, whereas expression of the glycosylated form of the alpha(2A)-AR increased in distal arteries. At 37 degrees C, alpha(2)-AR-induced vasoconstriction in distal arteries was inhibited by selective blockade of alpha(2A)-ARs (BRL-44408) but not by selective inhibition of alpha(2B)-ARs (ARC-239) or alpha(2C)-ARs (MK-912). In contrast, during cold exposure (28 degrees C), the augmented response to UK-14,304 was inhibited by the alpha(2C)-AR antagonist MK-912, which selectively abolished cold-induced amplification of the response. These experiments indicate that cold-induced amplification of alpha(2)-ARs is mediated by alpha(2C)-ARs that are normally silent in these cutaneous arteries. Blockade of alpha(2C)-ARs may prove an effective treatment for Raynaud's Phenomenon.
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