Evidence that late preconditioning against myocardial stunning in conscious rabbits is triggered by the generation of nitric oxide

Roberto Bolli, Zulfiquar A. Bhatti, Xian Liang Tang, Yumin Qiu, Qin Zhang, Yiru Guo, Asad K. Jadoon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Recent studies in conscious pigs and rabbits have demonstrated that a series of brief coronary occlusions renders the heart relatively resistant to myocardial 'stunning' 24 hours later (late preconditioning [PC] against stunning). The mechanism of this powerful cardioprotective response is unknown. The goal of the present study was to test the hypothesis that the development of late PC against stunning is triggered by increased generation of NO during the first ischemic challenge. Conscious rabbits underwent a sequence of six 4-minute coronary occlusion/4-minute reperfusion cycles for 3 consecutive days (days 1, 2, and 3). On day 1, rabbits received either an intravenous infusion of the NO synthase inhibitor N(ω)-nitro-L-arginine (L- NA, 13 mg/kg before the first occlusion) (group II, n=10) or vehicle (group I [control], n=10). In the control group, on day I systolic wall thickening (WTh) in the ischemic/reperfused region remained significantly depressed for 4 hours after the sixth reperfusion, indicating myocardial stunning. On days 2 and 3, however, the recovery of WTh improved markedly, so that the total deficit of WTh decreased by 60% on day 2 and 55% on day 3 compared with day 1 (P<.01). In the L-NA-treated group, the total deficit of WTh on day 1 was similar to that observed in the control group. On day 2, however, the total deficit of WTh was not significantly different from that observed on day 1 and was 132% greater than that observed in control rabbits on day 2 (P<.01). On day 3, the total deficit of WTh was 66% less than that noted on day 2 (P<.01). Thus, in L-NA-treated rabbits the sequence of six coronary occlusions and reperfusions performed on day 1 failed to precondition against stunning on day 2, but the same sequence performed on day 2 did precondition against stunning on day 3. Another group of rabbits (group III, n=6) received L-NA on day I in the absence of ischemia and was subjected to the occlusion/reperfusion sequence on days 2 and 3. In these animals, the total deficit of WTh on day 2 did not differ from that observed in control rabbits on day 1, indicating that administration of L-NA did not exacerbate the severity of myocardial stunning 24 hours later; therefore, the absence of late PC against stunning on day 2 in group II cannot be ascribed to a delayed deleterious action of L-NA on WTh. In conclusion, these results demonstrate that the NO synthase inhibitor L-NA completely blocks the development of late PC against myocardial stunning in conscious rabbits, indicating that NO generated as a result of the PC ischemia triggers the development of the cardioprotective response observed 24 hours later. NO is known to exert numerous biological actions resulting in rapid but transient physiological responses. The present observations support a novel pathophysiological paradigm in which NO also plays a key role in the delayed myocardial adaptations to ischemic stress, acting as a signaling step in the transduction pathway that leads to increased resistance to subsequent ischemic injury.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)42-52
Number of pages11
JournalCirculation research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1997



  • L-arginine
  • Myocardial ischemia/reperfusion
  • Nitric oxide synthase
  • Nitrogen radicals
  • Oxygen radicals

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine

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