Background/Aims: The role of opioid receptors in the regulation of vascular function remains unclear. In the current study, we evaluated the ability of loperamide, a peripheral opioid receptor agonist, to regulate blood pressure in spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHRs) and examined the mechanism(s) by which loperamide exerts its effects. Methods: In male SHRs, mean arterial pressure (MAP) was measured and hemodynamic analysis was recorded. Additionally, the isometric tension of aortic rings isolated from SHRs was determined. Results: Loperamide dose-dependently decreased MAP in SHRs but not in the normal group of Wistar-Kyoto rats. This reduction of MAP in conscious SHRs was abolished by the selective opioid μ-receptor antagonist cyprodime, but not by naloxonazine, the μ1-opioid receptor antagonist. However, cardiac output was not altered by loperamide in anesthetized SHRs. Moreover, loperamide-induced relaxation in isolated aortic rings precontracted with phenylephrine or vasopressin. This relaxation was abolished by cyprodime, but not by naloxonazine. Loperamide-induced relaxation was also attenuated by glibenclamide, an ATP-sensitive potassium (KATP) channel blocker. Additionally, vasodilatation by loperamide was reduced by an inhibitor of protein kinase A (PKA) and enhanced by an inhibitor of phosphodiesterases. Conclusion: We suggest that loperamide can lower MAP in SHRs via μ2-opioid receptor-dependent cAMP-PKA pathway that induces vascular relaxation by opening KATP channels.
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