In liver cirrhosis, elevated levels of NO and ROS (reactive oxygen species) might greatly favour the generation of peroxynitrite. Peroxynitrite is a highly reactive oxidant and it can potentially alter the vascular reactivity and the function of different organs. In the present study, we evaluated whether peroxynitrite levels are related to the progression of renal vascular and excretory dysfunction during experimental cirrhosis induced by chronic BDL (bile-duct ligation) in rats. Experiments were performed at 7, 15 and 21 days after BDL in rats and in rats 21 days post-BDL chronically treated with L-NAME (NG-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester). Sodium balance, BP (blood pressure), basal RPP (renal perfusion pressure) and the renal vascular response to PHE (phenylephrine) and ACh (acetylcholine) in isolated perfused kidneys were measured. NO levels were calculated as 24-h urinary excretion of nitrites, ROS as TBARS (thiobarbituric acid-reacting substances), and peroxynitrite formation as the renal expression of nitrotyrosine. BDL rats had progressive sodium retention, and decreased BP, RPP and renal vascular responses to PHE and ACh in the time following BDL. They also had increasing levels of NO and ROS, and renal nitrotyrosine accumulation, especially in the medulla. All of these changes were either prevented or significantly decreased by chronic L-NAME administration. In conclusion, these results suggest that the increasing levels of peroxynitrite might contribute to the altered renal vascular response and sodium retention in the development of the experimental biliary cirrhosis. Moreover, the beneficial effects of decreasing NO synthesis are, at least in part, mediated by anti-peroxinitrite-related effects.

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