ENHANCEMENT OF ENDOGENOUS CYCLIC AMP SIGNAL: A New Approach to Allow for Cold Preservation of Rat Livers from Non-Heart-Beating Donors?

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The organ donor shortage has led to a reconsideration of the use of non-heart-beating donors (NHBDs). However, graft injury due to warm ischemia in NHBD livers strongly affects posttransplant outcome. The present study was aimed at investigating the role of the cellular cyclic (c)AMP second messenger signal with regard to hepatic viability after cold preservation of NHBD livers.


Cardiac arrest was induced in Wistar rats by frenotomy of the anesthetized nonheparinized animal. After 30 min, the livers were excised and flushed with 20 ml of heparinized saline solution, rinsed with 10 ml of University of Wisconsin (UW) solution, and stored submerged in UW solution at 4°C for 24 hr. In half of the experiments, UW solution was supplemented with glucagon (0.5 µg/ml) to increase the cAMP signal in the liver. Reperfusion was carried out in vitro after all livers were incubated at 25°C in saline solution to replicate the period of slow rewarming during surgical implantation in vivo.


Hepatic levels of cAMP (nmol/g dry weight) declined from 1.21±0.05 to 0.53±0.03 (P<0.01) at 30 min after cardiac arrest. Subsequent storage in UW solution resulted in a further decline to 0.35±0.04 after 24 hr in group A, whereas glucagon treatment enhanced cellular cAMP signal to 0.64±0.06 (P<0.01). Upon reperfusion, liver integrity was significantly improved after glucagon administration, with 66% reduction in alanine aminotransferase release and a threefold increase in hepatic bile production as compared with untreated livers. Moreover, liver ATP tissue levels were restored to only 2.19±0.51 µmol/g in the untreated group but reached 4.97±0.41 µmol/g (P<0.05) after treatment with glucagon.


Posthoc conditioning of predamaged livers by glucagon enhances cAMP tissue levels during ischemic preservation and improves hepatic integrity upon reperfusion. This may represent a promising approach for the use of livers from non-heart-beating donors in clinical transplantation.

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