Background/aims: We studied whether acute administration of NCX-1000, a nitric oxide (NO)-releasing derivative of ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA), to animals with established liver cirrhosis decreases intrahepatic resistance and modulates hepatic vascular hypereactivity to norepinephrine (NE).
Methods: Four-week bile duct ligated (BDL) cirrhotic and control, sham-operated, rats were treated orally with 28 mg/kg per day NCX-1000 or 15 mg/kg per day UDCA for 5 days. Isolated normal and cirrhotic livers were perfused with NE, from 10 nM to 30 microM, in a recirculating system.
Results: NCX-1000 administration to BDL cirrhotic rats decreased portal pressure (P<0.01) without affecting mean arterial pressure and heart rate. In the isolated perfused liver system, administration of NE resulted in a dose-dependent increase of intrahepatic resistance. Vasoconstriction caused by 30 microM NE was reduced by 60% in animals treated with NCX-1000 (P<0.001), while UDCA was uneffective. The same portal pressure lowering effect was documented in cirrhotic and sham operated rats. Administration of NCX-1000 to BDL and sham operated rats resulted in a similar increase of nitrite/nitrate and cGMP concentrations in the liver.
Conclusions: By selectively delivering NO to the liver, NCX-1000 increases cGMP concentrations and effectively counteracts the effect of endogenous vasoconstrictors on the hepatic vascular tone.