Background & aims: Decreased cardiac contractility and beta-adrenergic responsiveness have been observed in cirrhosis, but the etiology remains unclear. We aimed to test the role of nitric oxide (NO), a negative inotropic agent, in the pathogenesis of cirrhotic cardiomyopathy in a rat model.
Methods: Cirrhosis was induced by bile duct ligation. Four weeks after ligation or sham operation, cardiac levels of tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha, guanosine 3,5'-cyclic monophosphate (cGMP), inducible NOS (NOS2), and endothelial constitutive NOS (NOS3) messenger RNA (mRNA) and protein were determined. Serum nitrite/nitrate level was measured. Cardiac contractile function was evaluated in isolated left ventricular papillary muscles in the absence and presence of the NOS inhibitor nitro-L-arginine methyl ester (L-NAME).
Results: Cardiac TNF-alpha, NOS2 mRNA and protein, cGMP, and serum interleukin (IL)-1beta and nitrite/nitrate levels were significantly higher in cirrhotic rats than sham controls. No significant differences in NOS3 mRNA or protein were found between cirrhotic and sham control rats. Baseline isoproterenol-stimulated papillary muscle contractile force was significantly lower in the cirrhotic group; with L-NAME incubation, contractile force increased significantly in cirrhotic rats but was unaffected in the controls. In normal papillary muscles, IL-1beta attenuated the contractility, but coincubation with L-NAME again reversed this attenuation. Incubation with the exogenous NO donor S-nitroso-N-acetyl-penicillamine also blunted papillary muscle contractility.
Conclusions: These results suggest that cytokine-induced stimulation of NOS2 plays a significant role in the pathogenesis of cirrhotic cardiomyopathy.