Grape seed proanthocyanidin extract (GPSE) at high doses has been shown to exhibit cytotoxicity that is associated with increased apoptotic cell death. Nitric oxide (NO), being a regulator of apoptosis, can be increased in production by the administration of GSPE. In a chick cardiomyocyte study, we demonstrated that high-dose (500 μg/ml) GSPE produces a significantly high level of NO that contributes to increased apoptotic cell death detected by propidium iodide and terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick-end labeling (TUNEL) staining. It is also associated with the depletion of intracellular glutathione (GSH), probably due to increased consumption by NO with the formation of S-nitrosoglutathione. Co-treatment with L-NAME, a NO synthase inhibitor, results in reduction of NO and apoptotic cell death. The decline in reduced GSH/oxidized GSH (GSSG) ratio is also reversed. N-Acetylcysteine, a thiol compound that reacts directly with NO, can reduce the increased NO generation and reverse the decreased GSH/GSSG ratio, thereby attenuating the cytotoxicity induced by high-dose GSPE. Taken together, these results suggest that endogenous NO synthase (NOS) activation and excessive NO production play a key role in the pathogenesis of high-dose GSPE-induced cytotoxicity.
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