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PLoS One. 2012;7(3):e33367. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0033367. Epub 2012 Mar 30.

Nicorandil attenuates monocrotaline-induced vascular endothelial damage and pulmonary arterial hypertension.

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Department of Cardiovascular Medicine, University of Tokyo Graduate School of Medicine, Tokyo, Japan.



An antianginal K(ATP) channel opener nicorandil has various beneficial effects on cardiovascular systems; however, its effects on pulmonary vasculature under pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) have not yet been elucidated. Therefore, we attempted to determine whether nicorandil can attenuate monocrotaline (MCT)-induced PAH in rats.


Sprague-Dawley rats injected intraperitoneally with 60 mg/kg MCT were randomized to receive either vehicle; nicorandil (5.0 mg·kg(-1)·day(-1)) alone; or nicorandil as well as either a K(ATP) channel blocker glibenclamide or a nitric oxide synthase (NOS) inhibitor N(ω)-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester (L-NAME), from immediately or 21 days after MCT injection. Four or five weeks later, right ventricular systolic pressure (RVSP) was measured, and lung tissue was harvested. Also, we evaluated the nicorandil-induced anti-apoptotic effects and activation status of several molecules in cell survival signaling pathway in vitro using human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs).


Four weeks after MCT injection, RVSP was significantly increased in the vehicle-treated group (51.0±4.7 mm Hg), whereas it was attenuated by nicorandil treatment (33.2±3.9 mm Hg; P<0.01). Nicorandil protected pulmonary endothelium from the MCT-induced thromboemboli formation and induction of apoptosis, accompanied with both upregulation of endothelial NOS (eNOS) expression and downregulation of cleaved caspase-3 expression. Late treatment with nicorandil for the established PAH was also effective in suppressing the additional progression of PAH. These beneficial effects of nicorandil were blocked similarly by glibenclamide and l-NAME. Next, HUVECs were incubated in serum-free medium and then exhibited apoptotic morphology, while these changes were significantly attenuated by nicorandil administration. Nicorandil activated the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt and extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) pathways in HUVECs, accompanied with the upregulation of both eNOS and Bcl-2 expression.


Nicorandil attenuated MCT-induced vascular endothelial damage and PAH through production of eNOS and anti-apoptotic factors, suggesting that nicorandil might have a promising therapeutic potential for PAH.

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