Background: Acetylsalicylic acid (ASA)-induced gastric injury is reduced when ASA is administered along with phosphatidylcholine. The hydrolysis of endogenous phosphatidylcholine leads to the production of betaine, which may participate in the maintenance of cellular homeostasis. The present aims were to investigate the effects of exogenous betaine and its palmitic acid complex (betaine-palmitate) in the protection of the gastric mucosa in ASA-induced subacute damage. Methods: Repeated doses of ASA were given intragastrically to male Wistar rats. Control rats were given vehicle only, while treated animals were challenged with ASA or with ASA along with betaine, palmitic acid or betaine-palmitate. The gastric mucosa was examined after 3 days and the nature of any microscopic mucosal injury was assessed by histology. The extent of macroscopic damage, changes in permeability (assessed by Evans blue method) and tissue ATP concentrations were determined in separate series. Results: ASA induced a significant fall in the ATP content of the mucosa, which was not affected by the other drugs used in the study. However, the ASA-induced mucosal permeability increase could be completely reversed by betaine-palmitate supplementation. The extent of severity of the macroscopic and microscopic lesions was 33% and 2.45, respectively, for ASA, as compared with 15% and 2.2 for betaine, 14% and 1.9 for palmitic acid and 3% and 1.4 for betaine-palmitate. Conclusions: Betaine-palmitate affords a significant protective effect against ASA-induced injury, without influencing the ATP synthesis, and this suggests that the defence is due to its ability to prevent secondary damage.
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