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The role of the cardiac muscarinic-receptor-coupled nitric oxide (NO) pathway in the cholinergic control of heart rate (HR) is controversial. We investigated whether adding excessive NO or its intracellular messenger cGMP could significantly modulate the HR response to vagal nerve stimulation (VNS) in the anesthetized rabbit and isolated guinea pig atria. The NO donor molsidomine (0.2 mg/kg iv) significantly enhanced the decrease in HR seen with right VNS (5 Hz, 5 V, 30 s) in vivo. A qualitatively similar effect was seen with the NO donor sodium nitroprusside (SNP; 10 and 100 microM) during VNS in vitro. This effect was still present when the baseline shift in HR caused by SNP was eliminated by using the specific hyperpolarization-activated current antagonist 4-(N-ethyl-N-phenylamino)-1,2-dimethyl-6-(methylamino)-pyrimidinium chloride (ZD-7288, 1 microM). The accentuated decrease in HR with SNP during VNS was mimicked by the stable analog of cyclic GMP, 8-bromoguanosine 3',5'-cyclic monophosphate (0.5 mM). This, however, was not seen with bath application of the stable analog of acetylcholine, carbamylcholine chloride (100 nM). We conclude that excessive NO enhances the magnitude of the decrease in HR caused by VNS. This effect appears to involve a presynaptic action via a cGMP-dependent pathway because it was not mimicked by bath-applied carbamylcholine chloride.

Original publication




Journal article


J Appl Physiol (1985)

Publication Date





510 - 516


Animals, Blood Pressure, Carbachol, Cardiovascular Agents, Cyclic GMP, Electric Stimulation, Guinea Pigs, Heart, Heart Rate, In Vitro Techniques, Male, Molsidomine, Nitric Oxide, Nitroprusside, Pyrimidines, Rabbits, Vagus Nerve, Vasodilator Agents