Effect of adult heartworm (HW) crude extract on isolated canine abdominal aortic strips precontracted with noradrenaline was examined by recording isometric changes in tension. HW extract caused contraction of the aortic strip at a low concentration (LC) and its relaxation at a high concentration (HC). In aortic strips without endothelium, LC extract elicited a contraction similar to that in the strips with endothelium, whereas HC extract failed to produce any relaxation but instead produced a contraction. The relaxing effect of HC extract was blocked after treatment with 300 µM NG-nitro-l-arginine methyl ester hydrochloride, with reversal by additional treatment with 3 mM l-arginine. It was also markedly reduced or abolished after treatment with 3 µM oxyhemoglobin or 1 µM methylene blue. Fractionation of HW extract by high-performance liquid chromatography revealed that the relaxing and contracting activities are due to different substances in the extract. The results indicate that HW extract contains 2 different vasoactive substances, 1 causing contraction of canine abdominal aorta via a direct action on the smooth muscle, and the other its relaxation indirectly by releasing nitric oxide from endothelial cells. These vasoactive substances might play a role in HW extract-induced shock in dogs, and in the pathogenesis of HW infection.
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