The endothelium of the hamster cheek pouch arteriole in vitro is able to greatly reduce the potency of luminally applied water-soluble drugs by acting as a barrier to diffusion from the lumen to the smooth muscle [Lew, Rivers, and Duling. Am. J. Physiol. 257 (Heart Circ. Physiol. 26): H10-H16, 1989]. Lipid-soluble drugs appear unaffected by the diffusion barrier, presumably because their ability to cross cell membranes allows them to freely cross the endothelium. We compared the effects of two alpha 1-adrenoceptor agonists, phenylephrine (water soluble) and SKF 89748A (lipid soluble), on systemic blood pressure and the arterioles of the hamster cheek pouch in vivo. Both agonists were able to activate the arterioles when applied topically to the outside of the arterioles (extraluminal application). The agonists were also injected as a brief bolus into the aortic arch at doses chosen to elicit similar peak pressor responses. At all levels of pressor response, the arteriolar responses to phenylephrine were smaller than those to SKF 89748A. In the cremasteric vasculature SKF 89748A was similarly found to be more effective in activating the arterioles after intravascular administration than was phenylephrine. We conclude that an intramural diffusion barrier exists in the arteriolar wall in vivo and that it can influence vascular reactivity.
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