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Br J Pharmacol. 2003 Mar;138(6):1037-48.

In vivo antioxidant treatment protects against bleomycin-induced lung damage in rats.

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Department of Medical Bioanalysis, Instituto de Investigaciones Biomédicas de Barcelona (IIBB-IDIBAPS), CSIC, Barcelona, Spain.


1. This study examines the activity of the antioxidant N-acetylcysteine on bleomycin-induced pulmonary fibrosis in rats with emphasis on the early inflammatory phase. 2. Rats receiving N-acetylcysteine (300 mg kg(-1) day(-1), intraperitoneal) had less augmented lung wet weight, and lower levels of proteins, lactate dehydrogenase, neutrophil and macrophage counts in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid and lung myeloperoxidase activity with a betterment of histological score at 3 days postbleomycin. 3. A diminished lung GSH/GSSG ratio and augmented lipid hydroperoxides were observed 3 days postbleomycin. These changes were attenuated by N-acetylcysteine. Alveolar macrophages from bleomycin-exposed rats released augmented amounts of superoxide anion and nitric oxide. N-Acetylcysteine did not modify superoxide anion generation but reduced the increased production of nitric oxide. 4. N-Acetylcysteine suppressed the bleomycin-induced increased activation of lung NF-kappaB (shift assay and immunohistochemistry), and decreased the augmented levels of the early inflammatory cytokines, tumour necrosis factor-alpha, interleukin-beta, interleukin-6 and macrophage inflammatory protein-2 observed in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid at 1 and 3 days postbleomycin exposure. 5. At 15 days postbleomycin, N-acetylcysteine decreased collagen deposition in bleomycin-exposed rats (hydroxyproline content: 6351+/-669 and 4626+/-288 micro g per lung in drug vehicle- and N-acetylcysteine-treated rats, respectively; P<0.05). Semiquantitative histological assessment at this stage showed less collagen deposition in N-acetylcysteine-treated rats compared to those receiving bleomycin alone. 6. These results indicate that N-acetylcysteine reduces the primary inflammatory events, thus preventing cellular damage and the subsequent development of pulmonary fibrosis in the bleomycin rat model.

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