Background: Fetal blood pressure increases during late gestation; however, the underlying vascular mechanisms are unclear. Knowledge of the maturation of resistance arteries is important to identify the mechanisms and vulnerable periods for the development of vascular dysfunction in adulthood. Methods: We determined the functional and structural development of fetal sheep mesenteric resistance arteries using wire myography and immunohistochemistry. Results: Media mass and distribution of myosin heavy-chain isoforms showed no changes between 0.7 (100 ± 3 days) and 0.9 (130 ± 3 days) gestation. However, from 0.7 to 0.9 gestation, the resting wall tension increased accompanied by non-receptor-dependent (potassium) and receptor-dependent (noradrenaline; endothelin-1) increases in vasocontraction. Angiotensin II had no contractile effect at both ages. Endothelium-dependent relaxation to acetylcholine and prostaglandin E2 was absent at 0.7 but present at 0.9 gestation. Augmented vascular responsiveness was paralleled by the maturation of sympathetic and sensory vascular innervation. Non-endothelium-dependent relaxation to nitric oxide showed no maturational changes. The expression of vasoregulator receptors/enzymes did not increase between 0.7 and 0.9 gestation. Conclusion: Vascular maturation during late ovine gestation involves an increase in resting wall tension and the vasoconstrictor and vasodilator capacity of the mesenteric resistance arteries. Absence of structural changes in the tunica media and the lack of an increase in vasoregulator receptor/enzyme expression suggest that vasoactive responses are due to the maturation of intracellular pathways at this gestational age.
- Vascular development
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine