Fetal and postnatal pulmonary circulation in the Alto Andino

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Lowland mammals at high altitude constrict the pulmonary vessels, augmenting vascular resistance and developing pulmonary arterial hypertension. In contrast, highland mammals, like the llama, do not present pulmonary arterial hypertension. Using wire myography, we studied the sensitivity to norepinephrine (NE) and NO of small pulmonary arteries of fetal llamas and sheep at high altitudes. The sensitivity of the contractile responses to NE was decreased whereas the relaxation sensitivity to NO was augmented in the llama fetus compared to the sheep fetus. Altogether these data show that the fetal llama has a lower sensitivity to a vasoconstrictor (NE) and a higher sensitivity to a vasodilator (NO), than the fetal sheep, consistent with a lower pulmonary arterial pressure found in the neonatal llama in the Andean altiplano. Additionally, we investigated carbon monoxide (CO) in the pulmonary circulation in lowland and highland newborn sheep and llamas. Pulmonary arterial pressure was augmented in neonatal sheep but not in llamas. These sheep had reduced soluble guanylate cyclase and heme oxygenase expression and CO production than at lowland. In contrast, neonatal llamas increased markedly pulmonary CO production and HO expression at high altitude. Thus, enhanced pulmonary CO protects against pulmonary hypertension in the highland neonate. Further, we compared pulmonary vascular responses to acute hypoxia in the adult llama versus the adult sheep. The rise in pulmonary arterial pressure was more marked in the sheep than in the llama. The llama pulmonary dilator strategy may provide insights into new treatments for pulmonary arterial hypertension of the neonate and adult.