Document Type


Date of Degree


Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Translational Biomedicine

First Advisor

William G. Haynes

First Committee Member

Allyn L Mark

Second Committee Member

Alan K Johnson

Third Committee Member

William I Sivitz

Fourth Committee Member

Harald M Stauss


Obesity is associated with increased sympathoactivation that elevates arterial pressure. However, the mechanism linking sympathetic activation to arterial pressure is unclear. Specifically, it has never been demonstrated unequivocally that sympathetically mediated vasoconstriction is increased in obesity. This project tested the hypothesis that sympathetic vascular tone is increased in obese normotensive and hypertensive subjects. The effect of weight loss on sympathetic vascular tone was also assessed.

Sympathetic vascular tone was assessed as forearm vasodilatation to intra-arterial phentolamine (?1/2-adrenergic receptor antagonist). Pharmacological responses were correlated with skeletal muscle sympathetic nerve activity (mSNA). Obese subjects with and without hypertension had increased mSNA. However, the vasodilatator response to phentolamine was not augmented in obese normotensive and hypertensive subjects versus lean controls. Additionally, weight loss did not alter phentolamine's vasodilatator response, despite reducing mSNA and arterial pressure in obese groups. These results indicate that sympathetic vascular tone is not increased in obesity despite higher mSNA.

These studies also assessed forearm resistance vessel function using intra-arterial nitroprusside (nitric oxide donor) and isoproterenol (?2-adrenergic receptor agonist). The effects of weight loss on these responses were studied in the obese groups. The response to both vasodilators was blunted, but only in obese hypertensive subjects. Weight loss normalized the response to nitroprusside but not to isoproterenol. This result suggests that obesity-related hypertension is associated with vascular smooth muscle dysfunction, which can be improved by weight loss. Blunted vasodilatation to isoproterenol suggests an abnormality on ?2-adrenergic receptor-dependent mechanisms that may or may not depend on the endothelium. Also, mental stress-induced forearm vasodilatation was blunted in obese normotensive subjects, which was not normalized by weight loss.

In conclusion, increased sympathetic nerve activity does not augment forearm sympathetic vascular tone. This dissociation could be due to opposing local factors (e.g. insulin, leptin) or to a different target of limb sympathoactivation (e.g. adipocytes vs. vascular). Sympathetic drive to tissues other than the peripheral circulation may play a more important role in arterial pressure elevation in obesity, either directly or indirectly.


obesity, hypertension, sympathetic nervous system, vasoconstriction


xvi, 181 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 157-179).


Copyright 2007 Marcelo Lima De Gusmao Correia