Indexed on: 26 Nov '09Published on: 26 Nov '09Published in: American journal of physiology. Heart and circulatory physiology
Damage and dysfunction of the vascular endothelium critically influence clinical outcomes after ischemia and reperfusion (I/R). Brief exposure to organic nitrates can protect the vascular endothelium from I/R injury via a mechanism that is similar to ischemic preconditioning and is independent of hemodynamic changes. The clinical relevance of these protective effects clearly depends on whether they can be sustained over time. Twenty-four healthy (age 25-32) male volunteers were randomized to receive 1) transdermal nitroglycerin (GTN; 0.6 mg/h) administered for 2 h on 1 day only, 2) transdermal GTN for 2 h/day for 7 days, or 3) continuous therapy with transdermal GTN for 7 days. Eight volunteers underwent continuous GTN therapy followed by intra-arterial infusion of the antioxidant vitamin C. Finally, five additional subjects underwent no therapy and served as controls. Endothelial function measurements were performed before and after induction of I/R of the arm. I/R caused a significant blunting of the flow responses to acetylcholine in the control group (P < 0.01 vs. before I/R). A single 2-h GTN dosage, given 24 h before I/R, prevented I/R-induced endothelial dysfunction [P = not significant (NS) vs. before I/R], but this protective effect was completely lost after 1 wk of GTN administration 2 h/day (P < 0.05 vs. before I/R; P = NS vs. control). In subjects who received continuous GTN, endothelial responses were blunted before I/R, and I/R did not cause further endothelial dysfunction. Finally, vitamin C normalized acetylcholine responses and prevented the loss of preconditioning associated with prolonged GTN. In a separate experimental model using isolated human endothelial cells, short-term incubation with GTN caused upregulation of heme oxygenase, an effect that was lost after prolonged GTN administration. Although a single administration of GTN is able to protect the endothelium from I/R-induced endothelial dysfunction, this protection is lost upon prolonged exposure, likely via an oxidative mechanism.