Experimental pulmonary hypertension induced in a hypobaric hypoxic environment (HHE) is characterized by structural remodeling of the heart and pulmonary arteries. Atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP) and brain natriuretic peptide (BNP) both have diuretic, natriuretic, and hypotensive effects, and both are involved in cardiovascular homeostasis as cardiac hormones. To study the effects of HHE on the natriuretic peptide synthesis system, 170 male Wistar rats were housed in a chamber at the equivalent of the 5500-m altitude level for 1-12 weeks. After 1 week of HHE, pulmonary arterial pressure was significantly raised, and the ratio of left ventricle plus septum over right ventricle of the heart showed a significant decrease (compared with those of ground-level control rats). In both ventricular tissues, the expression of ANP messenger (m)RNA and BNP mRNA increased after exposure to HHE. The amounts of ANP and BNP had decreased significantly in right atrial tissue at 12 weeks of HHE (compared with those of the controls), whereas in ventricular tissues at the same time point, both levels had increased significantly. In in situ hybridization and immunohistochemical studies, the staining of the mRNAs for ANP and BNP and of ANP and BNP themselves was more intense in both ventricular tissues after exposure to HHE than before (i.e., in the controls). The results suggest that, in response to HHE, the changes in ventricular synthesis are similar for ANP and BNP. These changes may play a role in modulating pulmonary hypertension in HHE. However, under our conditions, pulmonary hypertension increased progressively throughout the HHE period.
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