Background & Aims: Nitric oxide controls lower esophageal sphincter (LES) relaxation and esophageal peristalsis in opossums, but its role in the control of esophageal motility in humans is not defined. Hemoglobin inactivates NO by binding it. Recombinant human hemoglobin (rHb1.1) was used to test the hypothesis that NO mediates esophageal motor functions in humans. Methods: rHb1.1 or human serum albumin was administered intravenously to fasting male volunteers. Esophageal manometric studies were performed before, during, and up to 6 hours after the infusion. Results: rHb1.1 increased the velocities of peristaltic contractions to produce simultaneous contractions in 6 of 9 subjects. It increased the amplitude and duration of contractile waves in the esophagus. There was no consistent effect on the resting tone of the LES, but LES relaxation was inhibited. Spontaneous, simultaneous high-pressure contractions occurred in 8 of 9 subjects. Lower retrosternal chest pain during swallowing was observed in 4 subjects. Conclusions: rHb1.1 interfered with esophageal peristalsis and LES relaxation. It precipitated esophageal spasm in some subjects. These data support the hypothesis that the timing of smooth muscle esophageal peristalsis and LES relaxation are mediated by NO. They suggest that some disorders of esophageal motor function may result from defects in NO neuromuscular communication.
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