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AJ Drake and BR Walker

Many epidemiological studies in diverse populations have demonstrated a link between low birth weight and subsequent disease. This evidence has given rise to the fetal origins hypothesis, which suggests that exposure of the fetus to an adverse environment in utero leads to permanent programming of tIssue function and a risk of cardiovascular disease. An alternative hypothesis is that low birth weight and adult cardiovascular disease are independent features of a genetic predisposition to cardiovascular disease. This review describes evidence that the programming phenomenon may not be limited to the first generation offspring. Results of human and animal studies identify intergenerational programmed effects on both birth weight and cardiovascular disease. This may represent a mechanism for the non-genetic inheritance of a predisposition to low birth weight and adverse cardiovascular risk across a number of generations.

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WM Drake, SR Lowe, A Mirtella, TJ Bartlett, and AJ Clark

Adrenomedullin (ADM) and calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) are distantly related peptides. Both act through G protein-coupled receptors on vascular smooth muscle cells to increase intracellular cAMP concentrations, causing vasorelaxation. Recent evidence suggests that both peptides bind to a common heptahelical receptor, with specificity for each peptide being determined by a receptor activity modifying protein (RAMP). This hypothesis predicts that each peptide should desensitise the cellular response to subsequent stimulation by the other. We have studied the patterns of desensitisation of ADM/CGRP receptors in rat aortic vascular smooth muscle cells. Cells were incubated for 20 min in either serum free medium (SFM), alone (control) or in SFM containing vasoactive agonist (e.g. ADM 10(-8) M, CGRP 10(-7) M, angiotensin II 10(-9) M or isoproterenol 10(-6) M). Cells were then washed and incubated for a further 20 min in SFM containing a second agonist and 1 mM isobutyryl methyl xanthine. Cells were harvested and assayed for cAMP. Pre-exposure of cells to CGRP, isoproterenol, angiotensin II or ADM, decreased cAMP generation in response to subsequent stimulation with CGRP by 84% (+/-5), 66% (+/-18), 45% (+/-5) and 60% (+/-10) respectively (mean+/-s.d.). Pre-incubation of cells with 100 nM H-89, a protein kinase A (PKA) inhibitor, abolished the desensitisation of CGRP by itself, implying that this desensitisation was mediated through PKA. In contrast, there was no attenuation of the cAMP response to stimulation with ADM by pre-exposure to ADM and all other agonists tested. Identical results were seen with or without PKA inhibition by H-89. These results indicate that the ADM receptor does not desensitise over this time period in RAVSMCs, in contrast to the CGRP receptor, which is desensitised by pre-exposure to CGRP and other vaso-active agonists. These data also suggest that ADM and CGRP act through separate receptors in these cells.