The possible involvement of adrenergic mechanisms in the effects of Escherichia coli endotoxin was investigated in several preparations. Appropriate pretreatment of rabbits with E. coli endotoxin significantly increased pressor responses to epinephrine and norepinephrine as compared to untreated controls. Exposure of isolated rabbit aorta strips to E. coli endotoxin in a medium containing whole blood or cellular constituents of blood significantly increased the response to epinephrine. Endotoxin had no effect on responses to epinephrine in ritro when plain Krebs-Ringer solution was used.
Pretreatment with reserpine or phenoxybenzamine (dibenzyline) protected rabbits and mice against the acute lethal effects of E. coli endotoxin. The time period intervening between reserpine or dibenzyline administration and challenge by endotoxin precluded a direct antiendotoxic action of these agents. In addition, incubation of dibenzyline with endotoxin in vitro, under conditions which would favor reaction, did not decrease the toxicity of the latter.
These results indicate that peripheral adrenergic mechanisms are intimately involved in the effects of E. coli endotoxin and support the concept that deleterious effects of endotoxin in shock probably are due to exaggeration of existing vasoconstriction in an already compromised organism.