Effects of tumour necrosis factor-alpha in the human forearm: blood flow and endothelin-1 release

J N Patel*, A Jager, C Schalkwijk, R Corder, J A Douthwaite, J S Yudkin, S W Coppack, C D A Stehouwer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

52 Citations (Scopus)


Increased circulating concentrations of tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) are seen in several pathological conditions associated with vascular disease. TNF-alpha induces the synthesis of endothelin-1 (ET-1), a potent vasoconstictor, by the endothelium. However, there is profound vasodilatation in sepsis, where circulating levels of both ET-1 and TNF-alpha are elevated. The details of the interaction between ET-1 and TNF-alpha and the predominant resulting haemodynamic effect in healthy humans are unclear. The aim of the present study was to determine the effects of intra-arterial TNF-alpha on ET-1 spillover, vascular tone and endothelial function in the healthy human forearm. Brachial arterial and deep venous blood samples, forearm plasma flow measurements and blood flow responses to acetylcholine and sodium nitroprusside were obtained in six healthy subjects before and during a 6 h infusion of TNF-alpha into the brachial artery. Forearm blood flow was significantly greater than baseline during exposure to TNF-alpha [median (lower quartile, upper quartile): baseline, 2.6 (2.1, 2.8) ml.min(-1).100 ml(-1); TNF-alpha, 4.6 (4.5, 5.1) ml.min(-1).100 ml(-1); P <0.05]. The rate of release of ET-1 was significantly greater than baseline after 30 and 260 min of TNF-alpha infusion [median (lower quartile, upper quartile): baseline, 0.8 (0.6, 1.1) pg.min(-1).100 ml(-1); 30 min, 2.4 (1.9, 3.2) pg.min(-1).100 ml(-1); 260 min, 4.1 (3.1, 4.2) pg.min(-1).100 ml(-1); P <0.05]. The vasodilatory response to acetylcholine was diminished during TNF-alpha infusion, whereas the response to sodium nitroprusside remained unchanged. We thus demonstrate for the first time that local TNF-alpha increases ET-1 spillover from the human forearm and impairs endothelium-dependent vasodilatation. In spite of this action, TNF-alpha has a vasodilatory effect, resulting in an increase in forearm blood flow.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)409-15
Number of pages7
JournalClinical science (London, England : 1979)
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 9 Sept 2002
Externally publishedYes


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