Sympathetic overdrive in obesity involves purinergic hyperactivity in the resistance vasculature

Rebecca E. Haddock*, Caryl E. Hill

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    38 Citations (Scopus)


    While a close correlation exists in obese humans between sympathetic, adrenergic hyperactivity and structural and functional organ damage, a role for the co-transmitter, ATP, in vascular function remains unexplored. We therefore studied sympathetic nerve-mediated responses of pressurised small mesenteric arteries from control and obese rats. Diet-induced obesity significantly increased the amplitude of vasoconstriction to transmural nerve stimulation (1-10 Hz; P < 0.05). At 1 and 5 Hz, both adrenergic and purinergic responses were significantly augmented, while only the purinergic component was increased at 10 Hz (P < 0.05). Nerve stimulation at 1 Hz evoked contractions and underlying excitatory junction potentials (EJPs), which were both significantly increased in amplitude during obesity (P < 0.05) and abolished by αβ-methylene ATP (1 μm; desensitises purinergic receptors). The rise time and rate of decay of these EJPs were significant decreased (P < 0.05), without change in resting membrane potential. Amplitude and frequency of spontaneous EJPs and the density of perivascular sympathetic nerves were also significantly increased (P < 0.05). Inhibition of sensory neurotransmitter release (capsaicin; 10 μm) significantly increased the amplitude of nerve-mediated contraction (P < 0.05), with a greater effect in control than obese animals, although the density of sensory nerves was unaffected by obesity. We demonstrate that sympathetic nerve-mediated vasoconstriction is enhanced by diet-induced obesity due to upregulation of purinergic, in addition to adrenergic, neurotransmission. Changes result from increased perivascular sympathetic innervation and release of ATP. We conclude that augmented sympathetic control of vasoconstriction induced by obesity could contribute directly to hypertension and global organ damage. A decrease in sensitivity to sensory vasodilatory neurotransmitters may also affect these processes.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)3289-3307
    Number of pages19
    JournalJournal of Physiology
    Issue number13
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2011


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