Endotoxin (Escherichia coli lipopolysaccharide 0111:B4, 3 mg/kg i.v.) induced the expression of a calcium-independent nitric oxide (NO) synthase, determined after 5 h in cardiac, hepatic, pulmonary and renal tissues, as assessed by the conversion of radiolabelled l-arginine to l-citrulline. This widespread induction of NO synthase in these conscious rats was associated with microvascular injury, as assessed by the vascular leakage of radiolabelled human serum albumin. Concurrent administration of the NO synthase inhibitor, NG-nitro-l-arginine methyl ester (L-NAME, 1-5 mg/kg s.c.) with endotoxin, provoked acute vascular leakage within 2 h in the various organs. By contrast, the delayed injection of L-NAME (1-5 mg/kg s.c.) or NG-monomethyl-l-arginine (12.5-50 mg/kg s.c.) until 3 h after endotoxin challenge inhibited the subsequent microvascular leakage in these organs. These effects of NO synthase inhibitors were reversed by l-arginine (300 mg/kg s.c.) pretreatment. These results support a protective role of constitutive NO synthase in the early phase of endotoxin shock. Such actions contrast with the aggressive actions of the products of inducible NO synthase in the development of widespread microvascular injury in endotoxemic states.
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