A role for potassium channels in smooth muscle cells and platelets in the etiology of primary pulmonary hypertension

E. K. Weir, H. L. Reeve, G. Johnson, E. D. Michelakis, D. P. Nelson, S. L. Archer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Plasma serotonin levels are markedly elevated in patients with primary pulmonary hypertension (PPH) and platelet levels of serotonin are low. Furthermore, plasma serotonin levels remain elevated after bilateral lung transplantation, in the absence of any pulmonary hypertension. Dexfenfluramine can cause the anorexigen-induced form of PPH that is clinically and histologically indistinguishable from PPH. We find that dexfenfluramine releases serotonin from platelets and inhibits its reuptake. These observations suggest that serotonin might be involved in, or be a marker for, the mechanism responsible for both forms of PPH. Dexfenfluramine causes inhibition of voltage-sensitive potassium (Kv) channels, membrane depolarization, and calcium entry in pulmonary artery smooth muscle cells and vasoconstriction in isolated perfused rat lungs. We have recently found that dexfenfluramine also inhibits Kv channels in megakaryocytes, the stem cell for platelets. In smooth muscle cells, taken from the pulmonary arteries of PPH patients, Kv channels appear to be dysfunctional. The underlying defect in PPH is likely to be an abnormality of one or more Kv channels in both pulmonary artery smooth muscle cells and platelets. Relatively few patients exposed to dexfenfluramine develop PPH. The factors responsible for susceptibility might be a difference in expression of potassium channels and/or a decrease in the endogenous production of nitric oxide.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)200S-204S
Issue number3 SUPPL.
StatePublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Supported by VA Merit Review Funding (Drs. Weir and Archer).


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