1. Hyperdynamic circulation observed in portal hypertensive states is characterized by generalized vasodilatation, increased cardiac index and increased systemic and regional blood flows. Endotoxin, tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) and nitric oxide (NO) have been reported to be involved in the pathogenesis of hyperdynamic circulation, but the interactions between endotoxin, TNF-α and NO in cirrhotic rats with ascites have never been specifically addressed.
2. This study was designed to determine systemic and portal haemodynamics and plasma levels of endotoxin, TNF-α and nitrate/nitrite in cirrhotic rats with ascites and investigate the relationships between these substances.
3. Plasma concentrations of endotoxin, TNF-α and nitrate/nitrite (an index of NO production) were determined in 25 cirrhotic rats with ascites and 17 control rats using the Limulus assay, ELISA and a colorimetric assay respectively. In addition, haemodynamic studies were performed in another ten cirrhotic rats with ascites and ten control rats.
4. Cirrhotic rats with ascites had hyperdynamic circulation accompanied by increased plasma levels of endotoxin, TNF-α and nitrate/nitrite, as compared with control rats. Significant correlation existed between plasma levels of endotoxin and nitrate/nitrite (r = 0.59, P < 0.0001) and between plasma levels of endotoxin and TNF-α (r = 0.63, P < 0.0001). No correlation was detected between plasma levels of TNF-α and nitrate/nitrite (r = 0.24, P > 0.05).
5. This study suggests that endotoxaemia developed in cirrhotic rats with ascites may stimulate NO formation directly or indirectly via cytokine cascade, and consequently participate in the development and/or maintenance of hyperdynamic circulation.