Resistance arteries exist in a maintained contracted state from which they can dilate or constrict depending on need. In many cases, these arteries constrict to membrane depolarization and dilate to membrane hyperpolarization and Ca-channel blockers. We discuss recent information on the regulation of arterial smooth muscle voltage-dependent Ca channels by membrane potential and vasoconstrictors and on the regulation of membrane potential and K channels by vasodilators. We show that voltage-dependent Ca channels in the steady state can be open and very sensitive to membrane potential changes in a range that occurs in resistance arteries with tone. Many synthetic and endogenous vasodilators act, at least in part, through membrane hyperpolarization caused by opening K channels. We discuss evidence that these vasodilators act on a common target, the ATP-sensitive K (KATP) channel that is inhibited by sulfonylurea drugs. We propose the following hypotheses that presently explain these findings: 1) arterial smooth muscle tone is regulated by membrane potential primarily through the voltage dependence of Ca channels; 2) many vasoconstrictors act, in part, by opening voltage-dependent Ca channels through membrane depolarization and activation by second messengers; and 3) many vasodilators work, in part, through membrane hyperpolarization caused by KATP channel activation.
- Copyright © 1990 the American Physiological Society