BACKGROUND: Since reactive oxygen intermediates (ROI, or free radicals) have been implicated in the pathogenesis of ischemia-reperfusion injury of the small bowel, we evaluated the pretreatment effect of pyruvate, a 3-carbon compound recently shown to inhibit superoxide production, on reperfusion mucosal injury in the rat. METHODS: The small bowel of the ACI rat (n = 6) was divided into 2 5-cm segments, and 10 ml_ of a liquid diet containing pyruvate (0.32 g) or placebo (0.26 g) was instilled into the lumen of one of the segments for 10 minutes. The bowel was then made completely ischemic for 45 minutes by clamping the superior mesenteric artery, which was followed by 60 minutes of reperfusion. RESULTS: The production of ROI in bowel biopsy samples, estimated by luminol-enhanced chemiluminescence, was at least 80% decreased in the segment containing pyruvate compared with placebo immediately after ischemia (time 0), and compared with 30 and 60 minutes of reperfusion (P <0.05 for each time point). After 60 minutes of reperfusion, the bowel segment containing the placebo diet showed villus sloughing with destruction of lamina propria and crypts, and mucosal neutrophil infiltration had increased by 80%. Electron microscope evaluation revealed a reduction in number and size of microvilli, dilatation of intercellular spaces, and intracellular vacuoles. The bowel segment containing pyruvate showed the villi and crypts to be intact, without enhanced neutrophil infiltration. CONCLUSION: Pyruvate pretreatment of the rat small bowel inhibits postischemic reperfusion mucosal histologic injury, neutrophil infiltration, and ROI production.
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