Aging and forearm postjunctional α-adrenergic vasoconstriction in healthy men

Frank A. Dinenno, Niki M. Dietz, Michael J. Joyner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

131 Scopus citations


Background - Muscle sympathetic vasoconstrictor nerve activity increases with age in healthy humans but does not result in an augmented forearm vasoconstrictor tone. We tested the hypothesis that this is due to a reduction in postjunctional α-adrenergic responsiveness to endogenous norepinephrine (NE) release and determined whether this was specific to α1- or α2-adrenergic receptors. Methods and Results - Forearm blood flow (FBF, by strain-gauge plethysmography) responses to local intra-arterial infusions of tyramine (which evokes endogenous NE release), phenylephrine (selective α1-agonist), and clonidine (α2-agonist) were determined in 10 young (aged 26±1 [mean±SEM] years) and 10 older (aged 65±1 years) healthy normotensive men after local β-adrenergic blockade with propranolol. Basal forearm vascular tone was not different in young men and older men. The percentage reduction in FBF in response to the highest dose of tyramine was blunted in older men compared with young men (-37±3% versus -49±3%, respectively; P<0.01) despite a greater increase in deep venous NE concentration in older men (910±103 versus 565±69 pg/mL, respectively; P<0.001). Maximal reductions in FBF to phenylephrine were also blunted in older men (-47±2% versus -58±3% in young men, P<0.05). In contrast, the reductions in FBF (-36±7% versus -40±3% for older versus young men, respectively) and also in venous NE concentration (-79±24 versus -84±13 pg/mL for older versus young men, respectively) to clonidine were similar in the 2 groups. Finally, forearm sympathetic α-adrenergic vasoconstrictor tone (assessed via nonselective α-blockade with phentolamine) was significantly lower in older men. Conclusions - Our results indicate that human aging is associated with a reduction in forearm postjunctional α-adrenergic responsiveness to endogenous NE release and that this might be specific to α1-adrenergic receptors. Furthermore, the contribution of sympathetic α-adrenergic vasoconstriction to basal forearm vascular tone is reduced with age in healthy men.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1349-1354
Number of pages6
Issue number11
StatePublished - Sep 10 2002


  • Aging
  • Blood flow
  • Receptors, adrenergic, alpha
  • Vasoconstriction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)

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