The influence of the endothelium on glyceryl trinitrate metabolism and relaxation and the relationship to tolerance induced by transdermal glyceryl trinitrate was explored in rat aorta. Metabolism was assessed in artery segments incubated with glyceryl trinitrate (1.0 microM) for 2 min and the contents of 1,2- and 1,3-glyceryl dinitrate measured by gas chromatography. In non-tolerant arteries mean contents of glyceryl trinitrate, 1,2-glyceryl dinitrate and 1,3-glyceryl dinitrate were 3.2, 0.23 and 0.10 nmol/g, respectively; in tolerant arteries the content of 1,2-glyceryl dinitrate was reduced by approximately 60%. Endothelium removal or nitric oxide synthase (NOS) inhibition did not affect metabolite contents but increased the relaxant response to glyceryl trinitrate in the tolerant artery to an extent that tolerance was significantly attenuated. It is concluded that (i) tolerance is associated with depression of glyceryl trinitrate metabolism by an endothelium-independent mechanism and (ii) the endothelium contributes to tolerance by a mechanism which is independent of metabolism and may be linked with endothelial NOS.
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