Thirty-four mountaineers were studied at low (110 m) and high altitude (4559 m) to evaluate if increased pulmonary artery systolic pressure (PASP) at high altitude is associated with increased pulmonary endothelin-1 (ET-1) availability and alterations in nitrite metabolism across the lung. Blood samples were obtained using central venous and radial artery catheters for plasma ET-1 and nitrite. Pulmonary blood flow was measured by inert gas rebreathing to calculate transpulmonary exchange of plasma ET-1 and nitrite, and PASP was assessed by transthoracic Doppler echocardiography. After ascent to high altitude, PASP increased from 23 4 to 39 10 mmHg. Arterial and central venous plasma ET-1 increased, while plasma nitrite did not change significantly. At low altitude there was a transpulmonary loss of plasma ET-1, but a transpulmonary gain at high altitude. In contrast was a transpulmonary gain of plasma nitrite at low altitude and a transpulmonary loss at high altitude. PASP positively correlated with a transpulmonary gain of plasma ET-1 and negatively correlated with a transpulmonary loss of plasma nitrite. These results suggest that a transpulmonary gain of plasma ET- 1 is associated with higher PASP at high altitude. Transpulmonary loss of plasma nitrite indicates either less pulmonary nitric oxide (NO) production, which contributes to higher PASP, or increased NO bioavailability arising from nitrite reduction, which may oppose ET-1-mediated vasoconstriction.
- nitric oxide