Aims: Functional roles of calcium-activated potassium channels on the mechanical activity of epicardial coronary arteries obtained from a canine model of diabetes were investigated. Methods: Coronary arteries were isolated from healthy, alloxan-diabetic and insulin-treated diabetic dogs. Basal tensions, contractions induced by the prostaglandin (PG) analogue, U46619, and endothelium-dependent relaxations to acetylcholine (ACh) were modified with charybdotoxin (CHTX) + apamin (APA), inhibitors of calcium-activated potassium channels, as well as with Nω-nitro-L-arginine (LNA) + indomethacin (INDO) to suppress the synthesis of nitric oxide (NO) and PGs. The relaxing effect of nitroprusside-sodium (SNP), an NO donor, was also determined. Results: In diabetic coronary arteries, CHTX + APA did not change while LNA + INDO elevated the basal tension. PG-induced contractions were enhanced by CHTX + APA and by LNA + INDO in all the three groups of animals. CHTX + APA decreased the maximal relaxations to ACh in a partly insulin-dependent manner. LNA + INDO abolished the endothelium-dependent relaxations to ACh. In diabetic coronary arteries, the sensitivity to SNP-induced relaxation was enhanced, insulin independently, suggesting that NO could be partly responsible for maintaining intact ACh-induced vasorelaxation. Conclusion: In diabetic canine coronary artery, the vasomotor responses reflect up-regulation of calcium-activated potassium channels. This endothelial mechanism of the canine epicardial coronary artery may oppose vasoconstrictions in diabetic vascular tissue.
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