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Administration of nitric oxide (NO) donors in vivo is accompanied by a baroreflex-mediated increase in heart rate (HR). In vitro, however, NO donors can increase HR directly by stimulating a pathway that involves NO, cGMP, and the hyperpolarization-activated current ( I f). The aim of this study was to assess the functional significance of this pathway in vivo by testing whether NO donors can increase HR in the anesthetized rabbit independent of the autonomic nervous system. New Zealand White rabbits were vagotomized, cardiac sympathectomized, and treated with propranolol (0.3 mg/kg iv). The NO donor molsidomine (0.2 mg/kg iv) caused a progressive increase (Δ) in HR (ΔHR, 14 ± 3 beats/min; P < 0.01). This effect was significantly reduced by the I f blocker ZD-7288 (0.2 mg/kg iv; ΔHR, 2 ± 3 beats/min; P = not significant). Similar results were seen with sodium nitroprusside. The positive chronotropic effect of sodium nitroprusside (50 μM) was confirmed in the isolated working rabbit heart preparation (ΔHR, 17 ± 3 beats/min; P < 0.01). In conclusion, NO donors exert a small, but significant, positive chronotropic effect in vivo that is independent of the autonomic nervous system. These results are also consistent with data in sinoatrial node cells that show that NO donors increase HR by stimulating I f.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of Applied Physiology


American Physiological Society

Publication Date





97 - 103