BACKGROUND - Recent studies suggest that the late phase of ischemic preconditioning (PC) can be mimicked by pretreatment with NO donors. The ability of clinically relevant NO donors to induce PC against infarction, however, has not been evaluated. Furthermore, it is unknown whether tolerance to the hemodynamic actions of nitrates also extends to their PC effects.
METHODS AND RESULTS - Conscious rabbits underwent a 30-minute coronary occlusion and 3 days of reperfusion. A 60-minute intravenous (IV) infusion of nitroglycerin (NTG) ending 1 hour before occlusion reduced infarct size, indicating an early PC effect. When the time interval between NTG infusion and occlusion was extended to 24 or 72 hours, the infarct-sparing action of NTG became even more pronounced, indicating a robust late PC effect. Transdermal NTG patches elicited a late PC effect that was (1) equivalent to that induced by IV NTG, demonstrating the efficacy of transdermal NTG as an alternative form of NTG delivery for inducing late PC, and (2) similar in nitrate-tolerant and -nontolerant rabbits, demonstrating that tolerance does not extend to the PC effects of NTG.
CONCLUSIONS - In conscious rabbits, administration of NTG via either the IV or the transdermal route elicits a robust protective effect against infarction that lasts for 72 hours. The magnitude of NTG-induced cardioprotection is equivalent to that observed during the late phase of ischemic PC and is not affected by the development of tolerance. These findings reveal a new action of nitrates and support novel applications of these drugs for protecting the ischemic myocardium in patients.