Papaverine induces apoptosis in vascular endothelial and smooth muscle cells
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Papaverine is a vasodilator commonly used in the treatment of vasospasmic diseases such as cerebral spasm associated with subarachnoid hemorrhage, and in the prevention of spasm of coronary artery bypass graft by intraluminal and/or extraluminal administration. In this study, we examined whether papaverine in the range of concentrations used clinically causes apoptosis of vascular endothelial and smooth muscle cells. Apoptotic cells were identified by morphological changes and terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick end labeling (TUNEL) assay. In porcine coronary endothelial cells (EC) and rat aortic smooth muscle cells (SMC), papaverine at the concentration of 10(-3) M induced membrane blebbing within 1 hour of incubation. Nuclear condensation and fragmentation were found after 24 hours of treatment. The number of apoptotic cells stained with the TUNEL method was significantly higher in the EC and the SMC after 24 hours of incubation with papaverine at the concentrations of 10(-4) and 10(-3) M than their respective controls. Acidified saline solution (pH 4.8, as control for 10(-3) M papaverine hydrochloride) did not cause apoptosis in these cells. These results showed that papaverine could damage endothelial and smooth muscle cells by inducing changes which are associated with events leading to apoptosis. Since integrity of endothelial cells is critical for normal vascular function, vascular administration of papaverine for clinical use, especially at high concentrations (> or = 10(-4) M), should be re-considered.
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