In this study, just published in Circulation Research, researchers at Boston University School of Medicine have demonstrated for the first time that short elevations in circulating levels of this simple anion are sufficient to have a lasting impact on the heart by modulating its oxidation status and its protein machinery.
Nitrite, an oxidation product of the ubiquitous short-lived cell signaling molecule, nitric oxide (NO), was until recently thought to be biologically inert at the relatively low levels found in the body. Traces of nitrite are present in our diet and significant amounts are continuously produced from nitrate, another oxidation product of NO and a constituent of green, leafy vegetables. The suspicion that high levels of nitrite and nitrate may cause cancer, as well as concerns about their risk to compromise the ability of red blood cells to deliver oxygen to tissues, have led to strict regulations aimed at limiting our exposure to these substances through drinking water and food products.
In the past few years, however, multiple research groups have shown that low concentrations of nitrite exert numerous beneficial effects, ranging from anti-bacterial activities to increases in local blood flow, and that they can somehow protect tissues from damage when oxygen is suddenly cut off and then rapidly restored, as occurs during heart attacks and strokes.
To study the molecular underpinnings of this protective effect of nitrite, the researchers at Boston University School of Medicine used a rat model in which they administered nitrite only once, causing a short spike in circulating levels, as a way to simulate the types of naturally occurring increases in nitrite that follow exercise or consumption of a meal rich in nitrate.
The researchers used a systems-biology approach in which changes in multiple biological and biochemical systems (e.g., the composition of a large number of proteins, the concentration of several small molecule metabolites, and functional outcomes) are simultaneously monitored and then integrated to produce one final picture in order to provide a broader view of the impact of this treatment on the heart. They tested their theory that following these changes over time and at different doses of nitrite might help to explain the protective effects of nitrite on the heart.
"What we found was that a single brief nitrite treatment elicited persisting changes in the heart's oxidation status together with lasting alterations to numerous proteins involved in the heart's energy metabolism, redox regulation, and signaling," said David H. Perlman, a post-doctoral research associate in the Cardiovascular Proteomics Center at Boston University School of Medicine, and lead author of the study. "These alterations were particularly striking because they persisted at least 24 hours after the actual nitrite levels had returned back to normal, and they were correlated strongly with the improvements in heart function observed at the same time."
He noted that this type of protection, called 'cardiac preconditioning', is a recently discovered phenomenon shown to be caused by numerous pharmacological agents.
"The proteins we have implicated include some key proteins, such as mitochondrial aldehyde dehydrogenase, that have been shown by others to be critical to cardiac protection afforded by other agents and triggers," added Perlman. "This is exciting because it ties nitrite-triggered cardioprotection into the broader preconditioning field. Our study complements and extends other work, and identifies new players of potential importance for protection of the heart."
Perlman explained that nitrite levels in our bodies change under a number of circumstances, such as when we run up a flight of stairs or eat a big serving of salad.
"For years, the resulting bursts in nitrite were considered to be of little if any physiological relevance. Now we have good reason to believe that even small spikes in nitrite concentration can alter protein function in the heart in ways that afford protection," noted Perlman.
"We are intrigued by the breadth and magnitude of the proteomic changes in heart mitochondria elicited by a single, short-lasting elevation in nitrite concentration and believe that our findings will have broad implications for mitochondrial signalling and cardiac energetics," commented Martin Feelisch, senior author of the study. "It looks as though nitrite is triggering an ancient program aimed at fine-tuning mitochondrial function. Although the present study focussed on the heart, our observations may extend to other tissues and translate into relevant changes in muscle function elsewhere. If true, this may help explain, for example, the training effects of very short periods of exercise, which are known to be associated with elevations in circulating nitrite concentrations."
Interestingly, only low and high doses of nitrite, but not those in-between, were found to be protective. Although further studies will be needed to fully delineate the mechanisms of nitrite-induced cardioprotection, this study informs ongoing basic and translational studies by highlighting the importance of the dose-effect relationship for nitrite and the broad array of downstream targets possibly involved in its cardioprotective efficacy, the researchers concluded.
Gina DiGravio | EurekAlert!
Further reports about: > Circulation Research > Medicine > Stress > biochemical systems > blood cell > cardiac preconditioning > food products > heart attacks > key protein > leafy vegetables > nitric oxide > nitrite-triggered cardioprotection > oxidation product > oxidation status > spikes in nitrite
Some brain tumors may respond to immunotherapy, new study suggests
11.12.2018 | Columbia University Irving Medical Center
Climate change and air pollution damaging health and causing millions of premature deaths
30.11.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
The more objects we make "smart," from watches to entire buildings, the greater the need for these devices to store and retrieve massive amounts of data quickly without consuming too much power.
Millions of new memory cells could be part of a computer chip and provide that speed and energy savings, thanks to the discovery of a previously unobserved...
What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your...
A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.
The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...
A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.
Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...
Over the last decade, there has been much excitement about the discovery, recognised by the Nobel Prize in Physics only two years ago, that there are two types...
12.12.2018 | Event News
10.12.2018 | Event News
06.12.2018 | Event News
14.12.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering
14.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
14.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy