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Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2002 Jun;26(6):883-9.

Ethanol consumption increases nitric oxide production in rats, and its peroxynitrite-mediated toxicity is attenuated by polyenylphosphatidylcholine.

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Alcohol Research Center, Bronx Veterans Affairs Medical Center, New York, New York 10468, USA.



Nitric oxide generally mediates beneficial responses but becomes deleterious when coexistence with enhanced superoxide formation leads to the synthesis of peroxynitrite, a potent oxidant and nitrating agent.


To study the effects of ethanol and polyenylphosphatidylcholine on nitric oxide metabolism and toxicity, 36 rats were pair-fed liquid diets with 36% of energy either as ethanol or as additional carbohydrate for 24 days and were killed 90 min after intragastric feeding. Half received polyenylphosphatidylcholine in the diet (3 g/liter), and the other half equivalent amounts of essential fatty acids and choline. Nitric oxide was measured by chemiluminescence in arterial blood and liver cytosol and as a product of the inducible nitric oxide synthase activity. Peroxynitrite formation was assessed by the increase in nitrotyrosine protein residues, measured immunochemically.


In blood, administration of ethanol with or without polyenylphosphatidylcholine doubled nitric oxide levels. In the liver, ethanol increased nitric oxide by 52% (p < 0.01), and polyenylphosphatidylcholine attenuated this effect. Ethanol consumption increased the cytosolic activity of the inducible nitric oxide synthase and induced microsomal cytochromes P-450 capable of producing both nitric oxide and superoxide. This was associated with an 18% (p < 0.01) increase in nitrotyrosine protein residues, products of peroxynitrite toxicity, which occurred predominantly in steatotic hepatocytes. Polyenylphosphatidylcholine attenuated these changes by decreasing the ethanol effect on both the cytosolic and the microsomal activities, in addition to acting as a powerful antioxidant. Acute administration of the same ethanol dose increased nitric oxide levels, but did not affect nitrotyrosine protein residues.


Chronic, but not acute, ethanol administration increases peroxynitrite hepatotoxicity by enhancing concomitant production of nitric oxide and superoxide, both of which are prevented by polyenylphosphatidylcholine.

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