While hypertension is a major risk factor for stroke, it is not its sole determinant. Despite similar blood pressures, spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR) do not share the predisposition to cerebrovascular disease typical of stroke-prone spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHRSP). We investigated vascular function in male SHR and SHRSP as well as in SHRSP/SHR-F2 hybrid animals. Animals were maintained on the appropriate dietary regimen necessary for the manifestation of stroke. Among the hybrid animals, a group of stroke-prone and a group of stroke-resistant rats were selected. Blood pressure was similar in all groups. Endothelium-independent vascular reactivity tested on isolated rings of thoracic aorta and basilar artery after death showed similar contractile and dilatory responses to serotonin and nitroglycerin, respectively, in all groups. In contrast, endothelium-dependent relaxation, in response to acetylcholine or substance P, was markedly reduced in SHRSP compared with SHR. Similarly, reduced vasodilatory responses were present in aortae of F2 rats that had suffered a stroke when compared with SHR or F2 rats resistant to stroke. The observed association and cosegregation of stroke with significant and specific impairment of endothelium-dependent vasorelaxation among SHRSP and stroke-prone F2 hybrids, respectively, suggest a potential causal role of altered endothelium-dependent vascular relaxation in the pathogenesis of stroke.
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