Ligating the femoral artery for 72 h in decerebrated rats exaggerates the exercise pressor reflex. The sensory arm of this reflex is comprised of group III and IV afferents, which can be either sensitized or stimulated by PGE2. In vitro studies showed that endoperoxide (EP) 3 and 4 receptors were responsible for the PGE2-induced sensitization of rat dorsal root ganglion cells. This in vitro finding prompted us to test the hypothesis that blockade of EP3 and/or EP4 receptors attenuated the exaggerated exercise pressor reflex in rats with ligated femoral arteries. We measured the cardiovascular responses to static hindlimb contraction or tendon stretch before and after femoral arterial injection of L798106 (an EP3 antagonist) or L161982 (an EP4 antagonist). The pressor and cardioaccelerator responses to either contraction or tendon stretch were not attenuated by L798106 in either the ligated or freely perfused rats. Likewise in five rats whose hindlimb muscles were freely perfused, the pressor and cardioaccelerator responses to either contraction or tendon stretch were not attenuated by L161982. In the six ligated rats, however, the pressor response to contraction was attenuated by L161982, averaging 37 ± 3 mmHg before, 18 ± 2 mmHg afterward (P < 0.05). Western blotting analysis revealed that ligation of the femoral artery for 72 h increased the EP4 receptor protein in the L4 and L5 dorsal root ganglia over their freely perfused counterparts by 24% (P < 0.05). We conclude that EP4 receptors, but not EP3 receptors, play an important role in the exaggerated exercise pressor reflex found in rats with ligated femoral arteries.
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