Cardiovascular function in mice during normal pregnancy and in the absence of endothelial NO synthase

Shathiyah Kulandavelu, Dawei Qu, S. Lee Adamson
In humans, the increased cardiovascular demands of pregnancy are met by increases in cardiac output (CO), stroke volume (SV), plasma volume (PV), and cardiac and aortic inner dimensions and a concurrent decrease in arterial pressure that indicates a fall in total peripheral vascular resistance. The mechanisms responsible for these changes are incompletely understood, but NO synthase (NOS) is believed to play a central role. We assessed whether C57Bl/6J (B6) mice show similar changes and whether these changes are altered in mice lacking the gene for endothelial NOS (eNOS). The CO of B6 mice increased 28% by day 9.5 of gestation because of a 25% increase in SV, and increased 48% by day 17.5 because of a 41% increase in SV. The increase in SV at day 17.5 was associated with a 27% increase in PV, a 15% decrease in arterial pressure, and 10% to 15% increases in aortic and left-ventricular inner dimensions. In the absence of eNOS, CO increased 22% by day 9.5 because of increases in SV (14%) and heart rate (9%), but increased no further by day 17.5. SV near term was lower than B6 mice despite similar 26% increases in PV and 14% decreases in arterial pressure in association with blunted left-ventricular chamber enlargement. All reported changes are P<0.05. We conclude that cardiovascular changes during pregnancy are similar in B6 mice and humans. eNOS plays a critical role in increasing stroke volume in late gestation by promoting cardiac remodeling.

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