Aim: To assess the mechanisms of protective action by different mild irritants through maintenance of gastric mucosal integrity and modulation of mucosal nitric oxide (NO) in experimental gastritis rats. Methods: Either 200 mL/L ethanol, 50 g/L NaCl or 0.3 mol/L HCl was pretreated to normal or 800 mL/L ethanol-induced acute gastritis Sprague-Dawley rats before a subsequent challenge with 500 mL/L ethanol. Both macroscopic lesion areas and histological damage scores were determined in the gastric mucosa of each group of animals. Besides, gastric mucosal activities of NO synthase isoforms and of superoxide dismutase, along with mucosal level of leukotriene (LT)C4 were measured. Results: Macroscopic mucosal damages were protected by 200 mL/L ethanol and 50 g/L NaCl in gastritis rats. However, although 200 mL/L ethanol could protect the surface layers of mucosal cells in normal animals (protection attenuated by NG-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester), no cytoprotection against deeper histological damages was found in gastritis rats. Besides, inducible NO synthase activity was increased in the mucosa of gastritis animals and unaltered by mild irritants. Nevertheless, the elevation in mucosal LTC4 level following 500 mL/L ethanol administration and under gastritis condition was significantly reduced by pretreatment of all three mild irritants in both normal and gastritis animals. Conclusion: These findings suggest that the aggravated 500 mL/L ethanol-evoked mucosal damages under gastritis condition could be due to increased inducible NO and LTC4 production in the gastric mucosa. Only 200 mL/L ethanol is truly "cytoprotective" at the surface glandular level of nongastritis mucosa. Furthermore, the macroscopic protection of the three mild irritants involves reduction of LTC4 level in both normal and gastritis mucosa, implicating preservation of the vasculature.
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