NO (nitric oxide) may protect the liver from IR (ischaemia/reperfusion) injury. RIPC (remote ischaemic preconditioning) also protects against liver IR injury; however, the molecular mediator(s) of RIPC are currently unknown. The aim of the present study was to assess the role of NO in hindlimb RIPC-induced protection against liver IR injury. Mice were allocated to the following groups: sham group; RIPC group (six cycles of 4×4 min IR of hindlimb); IR group [40 min lobar (70%) hepatic ischaemia and 2-h reperfusion]; RIPC+IR group (RIPC followed by IR group procedures); and C-PTIO [2-(4-carboxyphenyl)-4,4,5,5-tetramethylimidazoline-1-oxyl-3-oxide potassium salt]+RIPC+IR group [C-PTIO (a direct NO scavenger) was administered, followed by the RIPC+IR group procedure]. Hepatic MBF (microcirculatory blood flow) was measured throughout the experiment. Circulating NOx (nitrite and nitrate) levels, plasma liver transaminases, hepatic histopathological and TEM (transmission electron microscopy) studies were performed at the end of the experiment. NOx concentrations were significantly elevated (P<0.05) in the RIPC and RIPC+IR groups. Compared with liver IR alone, RIPC+IR preserved hepatic MBF during liver reperfusion (P<0.05). In contrast, C-PTIO+RIPC+IR reduced MBF compared with RIPC+IR (P<0.05). RIPC+IR reduced plasma transaminases (P<0.05), and histopathological and ultrastructural features of injury compared with IR alone. The protective effects of RIPC+IR in reducing liver IR injury were abrogated in the group that received antecedent C-PTIO (C-PTIO+RIPC+IR). In conclusion, NO is an essential mediator of the protection afforded by hindlimb RIPC against liver IR injury. The mechanisms underlying this protection involve preservation of the sinusoidal structure and maintenance of blood flow through the hepatic microcirculation.

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