Oxidative stress may cause a loss of tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4), a co-factor of nitric oxide synthase (NOS), decrease the bioavailability of NO and aggravate ischemia/reperfusion (I/R) injury in diabetic heart. We hypothesized that ascorbic acid (AA) and N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) protect the diabetic heart from I/R injury by increasing BH4/dihydrobiopterin (BH2) ratio and inhibiting uncoupling of NOS. Diabetes mellitus was induced in rats by streptozotocin treatment, and the hearts were isolated and perfused. BH4 and BH4/BH2 ratio decreased in the diabetic heart associated with increased production of superoxide and nitrotyrosine (NT). Treatment with AA or NAC significantly increased BH4/BH2 ratio in the diabetic heart associated with decreased production of superoxide and NT and increased generation of nitrate plus nitrite (NOx). Pre-treatment with AA or NAC before 30 min ischemia followed by 120 min reperfusion improved left ventricular (LV) function and reduced infarct size in the diabetic but not non-diabetic hearts. The NOS inhibitor, L-NAME, inhibited the increase in the generation of superoxide, NT and NOx, but aggravated LV function and increased infarct size in the diabetic heart. L-NAME also abrogated the increase in NOx and improvement of LV function and the infarct size-limiting effect induced by AA or NAC in the diabetic heart. These results suggest that AA and NAC increase BH4/BH2 ratio and prevent NOS uncoupling in the diabetic heart. Resultant increase in the bioavailability of NO renders the diabetic heart toleratant to I/R injury.
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