Endothelin-1 in the rat bile duct ligation model of hepatopulmonary syndrome: correlation with pulmonary dysfunction

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Models of hepatopulmonary syndrome require both hepatic injury and portal hypertension to develop pulmonary microvascular and gas exchange abnormalities. Recently, increased endothelin-1 levels associated with vasodilatation, have been observed in cirrhosis. We investigated endothelin-1 production in common bile duct ligated animals with hepatopulmonary syndrome in comparison to partial portal vein ligated animals that do not develop hepatopulmonary syndrome.


Organ and plasma endothelin-1 were measured in sham, bile duct ligated and portal vein ligated rats, and Northern analysis and immunohistochemistry were performed in liver. Plasma endothelin-1 levels were correlated with pulmonary endothelial nitric oxide synthase levels and alveolar-arterial oxygen gradients.


Hepatic and plasma endothelin-1 increased only after bile duct ligation, and were accompanied by increased hepatic endothelin-1 mRNA and increased endothelin-1 protein in biliary epithelium. Plasma endothelin-1 levels correlated directly with both pulmonary endothelial nitric oxide synthase levels and alveolar-arterial gradients.


Enhanced hepatic production and increased plasma levels of endothelin-1 occur after bile duct ligation, but not after portal vein ligation, and correlate with associated molecular and gas exchange alterations in the lung. Endothelin-1 may contribute to the pathogenesis of hepatopulmonary syndrome.

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