N-acetylcysteine inhibits hypoxic pulmonary hypertension most effectively in the initial phase of chronic hypoxia.
Life Sci. 2005 May 27;77(2):175-82. Epub 2005 Feb 1. PMID: 15862602
Department of Physiology, 2nd Medical School, Charles University and Center for Experimental Cardiovascular Research, Plzenská 221, Prague 5, Czech Republic.
Exposure to chronic hypoxia results in hypoxic pulmonary hypertension (HPH). In rats HPH develops during the first two weeks of exposure to hypoxia, then it stabilizes and does not increase in severity. We hypothesize that free radical injury to pulmonary vascular wall is an important mechanism in the early days of the hypoxic exposure. Thus antioxidant treatment just before and at the beginning of hypoxia should be more effective in reducing HPH than antioxidant therapy of developed pulmonary hypertension. We studied adult male rats exposed for 4 weeks to isobaric hypoxia (F(iO2) = 0.1) and treated with the antioxidant, N-acetylcysteine (NAC, 20 g/l in drinking water). NAC was given "early" (7 days before and the first 7 days of hypoxia) or "late" (last two weeks of hypoxic exposure). These experimental groups were compared with normoxic controls and untreated hypoxic rats (3-4 weeks hypoxia). All animals kept in hypoxia had significantly higher mean pulmonary arterial blood pressure (PAP) than normoxic animals. PAP was significantly lower in hypoxic animals with early (27.1 +/- 0.9 mmHg) than late NAC treatment (30.5 +/- 1.0 mmHg, P<0.05; hypoxic without NAC 32.6 +/- 1.2 mmHg, normoxic controls 14.9 +/- 0.7 mmHg). Early but not late NAC treatment inhibited hypoxia-induced increase in right ventricle weight and muscularization of distal pulmonary arteries assessed by quantitative histology. We conclude that release of free oxygen radicals in early phases of exposure to hypoxia induces injury to pulmonary vessels that contributes to their structural remodeling and development of HPH.