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OBJECTIVES: We tested the hypothesis that the attenuated heart rate (HR) response to sympathetic activation following swim training in the guinea pig (Cavia porcellus) results from a peripheral modulation of pacemaking by nitric oxide (NO). METHODS: Nitric oxide synthase (NOS) inhibition on the increase in heart rate with sympathetic nerve stimulation (SNS) was investigated in the isolated guinea pig double atrial/right stellate ganglion preparation from exercise trained (6-weeks swimming, n=20) and sedentary animals (n=20). Western blot analysis for neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS) was performed on the stellate ganglion from both groups. RESULTS: Relative to the control group, the exercise group demonstrated typical exercise adaptations of increased ventricular weight/body weight ratio, enhanced skeletal muscle citrate synthase activity and higher concentrations of [3H]ouabain binding sites in both skeletal and cardiac tissue (P<0.05). The increase in heart rate (bpm) with SNS significantly decreased in the exercise group (n=16) compared to the sedentary group (n=16) from 30+/-5 to 17+/-3 bpm at 1 Hz; 67+/-7 to 47+/-4 bpm at 3 Hz; 85+/-9 to 63+/-4 bpm at 5 Hz and 101+/-9 to 78+/-5 bpm at 7 Hz stimulation (P<0.05). The increase in heart rate with cumulative doses (0.1-10 microM) or a single dose (0.1 microM) of bath-applied norepinephrine expressed as the effective doses at which the HR response was 50% of the maximum response (EC50) were similar in both exercise (EC50 -6.08+/-0.16 M, n=8) and sedentary groups (EC50 -6.18+/-0.07 M, n=7). Trained animals had significantly more nNOS protein in left stellate ganglion compared to the sedentary group. In the exercise group, the non-isoform selective NOS inhibitor, N-omega nitro-L-arginine (L-NA, 100 microM) caused a small but significant increase in the heart rate response to SNS. However, the positive chronotropic response to sympathetic nerve stimulation remained significantly attenuated in the exercise group compared to the sedentary group during NOS inhibition (P<0.05). CONCLUSIONS: Our results indicate that there is a significant peripheral pre-synaptic component reducing the HR response to sympathetic activation following training, although NO does not play a dominant role in this response.

Original publication




Journal article


Cardiovasc Res

Publication Date





90 - 98


Animals, Body Weight, Electric Stimulation, Guinea Pigs, Heart Atria, Heart Rate, In Vitro Techniques, Male, Nitric Oxide, Norepinephrine, Organ Size, Physical Conditioning, Animal, Physical Exertion, Presynaptic Terminals, Stellate Ganglion, Sympathetic Nervous System