As compared to the adult, the developing fetus and newborn infant are at much greater risk for dysregulation of cerebral blood flow (CBF), with complications such as intraventricular and germinal matrix hemorrhage with resultant neurologic sequelae. To minimize this dysregulation and its consequences presents a major challenge. Although in many respects the fundamental signal transduction mechanisms that regulate relaxation and contraction pathways, and thus cerebrovascular tone and CBF in the immature organism are similar to those of the adult, the individual elements, pathways, and roles differ greatly. Here, we review aspects of these maturational changes of relaxation/contraction mechanisms in terms of both electro-mechanical and pharmaco-mechanical coupling, their biochemical pathways and signaling networks. In contrast to the adult cerebrovasculature, in addition to attenuated structure with differences in multiple cytoskeletal elements, developing cerebrovasculature of fetus and newborn differs in many respects, such as a strikingly increased sensitivity to [Ca2+]i and requirement for extracellular Ca2+ for contraction. In essence, the immature cerebrovasculature demonstrates both "hyper-relaxation" and "hypo-contraction". A challenge is to unravel the manner in which these mechanisms are integrated, particularly in terms of both Ca2+-dependent and Ca2+-independent pathways to increase Ca2+ sensitivity. Gaining an appreciation of these significant age-related differences in signal mechanisms also will be critical to understanding more completely the vulnerability of the developing cerebral vasculature to hypoxia and other stresses. Of vital importance, a more complete understanding of these mechanisms promises hope for improved strategies for therapeutic intervention and clinical management of intensive care of the premature newborn.
- Calcium signaling
- Cerebral vasculature
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine