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J Tongji Med Univ. 2001;21(1):78-81.

The role of nitric oxide in hyperoxic lung injury in premature rats.

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Department of Pediatrics, Tongji Hospital, Tongji Medical College, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan 430030.


To investigate the role of nitric oxide (NO) in hyperoxic lung injury, the 3-day-old preterm rats were randomly assigned to four groups: group I (hyperoxia group), group II (hyperoxia + Nw-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester (L-NAME) group), group III (air group), and group IV (air + L-NAME) group. Group I and II were exposed to > or = 90% O2 for 3 or 7 days. Group II and IV received subcutaneous L-NAMEy on daily basis (20 mg/kg). After 3 day or 7 day exposure, the lung wet weight/dry weight ratio (W/D), total protein and malondialdehyde (MDA) in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF) and lung pathology were examined in all groups. NO content, expression of endothelial NOS (eNOS) and inducible NOS (iNOS) in lungs were measured in group I and III. Our results showed that after 3 day exposure, group I appeared acute lung injury characterized by the increase of MDA content (P < 0.01) and the presence of hyperaemia, red cell extravasation and inflammatory infiltration; after 7 day exposure, except MDA, total protein and W/D were also increased in comparison with group III (P < 0.01, 0.05), pathological changes were more severe than those after 3 day exposure. After 3 and 7 day exposure, total protein in group II was significantly increased as compared with group I (P < 0.01 for both). The pulmonary acute inflammatory changes were more obvious in group II than in group I. Occasionally, mild hemorrhage was detected in the lungs of group IV. BALF protein content in group IV was higher than that in group III after 7 day exposure (P < 0.01). After 3 and 7 day exposure, NO content in BALF were all significantly elevated in group I as compared with group III (P < 0.01 for all). In the lungs of group I, strong immunostaining for iNOS was observed in airway and alveolar epithelia, inflammatory cells, which were stronger than those in group III. Expression of iNOS in rats after 7 day hyperoxic exposure was stronger than that after 3 day exposure. Shortly after 7 day exposure, stronger immunostaining for eNOS in airway epithelia in group I than that in group III was seen. Our study suggested that treatment with L-NAME worsened acute hyperoxic lung injury in preterm rats and also had a deleterious effect on the rats exposed to air, indicating that endogenous nitric oxide may play a protective role in rats under both physiological and hyperoxic status. Hyperoxia can significantly upregulate the expression of iNOS and eNOS in inflammatory cells, epithelia in the lungs of preterm rats, promote NO generation, which suggests that endogenous NO may mediate the hyperoxic pulmonary damage. Over-stimulation of iNOS may contribute to the pathogenesis of hyperoxic lung injury. NO may have dual roles in pulmonary oxygen toxicity.

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