The nitrite anion represents the circulatory and tissue storage form of nitric oxide (NO) and a signaling molecule, capable of conferring cardioprotection and many other health benefits. However, molecular mechanisms for observed cardioprotective properties of nitrite remain largely unknown. We have evaluated the NO-like bioactivity and cardioprotective efficacies of sodium nitrite supplemented in drinking water in rats exposed to short-term chronic hypobaric hypoxia. We observed that, nitrite significantly attenuates hypoxia-induced oxidative stress, modulates HIF-1α stability and promotes NO-cGMP signaling in hypoxic heart. To elucidate potential downstream targets of nitrite during hypoxia, we performed a microarray analysis of nitrite supplemented hypoxic hearts and compared with both hypoxic and nitrite supplemented normoxic hearts respectively. The analysis revealed a significant increase in the expression of many antioxidant genes, transcription factors and cardioprotective signaling pathways which was subsequently confirmed by qRT-PCR and Western blotting. Conversely, hypoxia exposure increased oxidative stress, activated inflammatory cytokines, downregulated ion channels and altered expression of both pro- and anti-oxidant genes. Our results illustrate the physiological function of nitrite as an eNOS-independent source of NO in heart profoundly modulating the oxidative status and cardiac transcriptome during hypoxia.
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