Cardiovascular function was studied in anaesthetised male rats which received 50 micrograms/ml of arsenic (as sodium arsenate) in deionised drinking water for 320 days. High urinary excretion of arsenic was found at the end of treatment and the metal accumulated considerably in the kidneys and liver, which both presented slight alterations. No histopathological modifications were evident in other organs. Base line blood pressure, cardiac inotropism, and chronotropism and cardiovascular reactivity to noradrenaline, acetylcholine, angiotensin II, bradykinin, histamine, and serotonin did not differ in exposed or in control animals. In the exposed group, however, there was potentiation of the effects of vascular beta-adrenoceptor stimulation and a reduction in the vascular responsiveness to angiotensin I. Chronic arsenic exposure did not affect the baroreflex sensitivity but was able to induce sympathetic hyperactivity or hypersensitivity, or both, possibly associated with an antivagal action. Our results might help to explain the cardiovascular alterations seen in people chronically exposed to high concentrations of arsenic.
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