Scielo RSS <![CDATA[Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research]]> vol. 32 num. 1 lang. en <![CDATA[SciELO Logo]]> <![CDATA[<B>Carbon monoxide: from toxin to endogenous modulator of cardiovascular functions</B>]]> Carbon monoxide (CO) is a pollutant commonly recognized for its toxicological attributes, including CNS and cardiovascular effects. But CO is also formed endogenously in mammalian tissues. Endogenously formed CO normally arises from heme degradation in a reaction catalyzed by heme oxygenase. While inhibitors of endogenous CO production can raise arterial pressure, heme loading can enhance CO production and lead to vasodepression. Both central and peripheral tissues possess heme oxygenases and generate CO from heme, but the inability of heme substrate to cross the blood brain barrier suggests the CNS heme-heme oxygenase-CO system may be independent of the periphery. In the CNS, CO apparently acts in the nucleus tractus solitarii (NTS) promoting changes in glutamatergic neurotransmission and lowering blood pressure. At the periphery, the heme-heme oxygenase-CO system can affect cardiovascular functions in a two-fold manner; specifically: 1) heme-derived CO generated within vascular smooth muscle (VSM) can promote vasodilation, but 2) its actions on the endothelium apparently can promote vasoconstriction. Thus, it seems reasonable that the CNS-, VSM- and endothelial-dependent actions of the heme-heme oxygenase-CO system may all affect cardiac output and vascular resistance, and subsequently blood pressure. <![CDATA[<b>Metabolic fate of glutamine in lymphocytes, macrophages and neutrophils</b>]]> Eric Newsholme's laboratory was the first to show glutamine utilization by lymphocytes and macrophages. Recently, we have found that neutrophils also utilize glutamine. This amino acid has been shown to play a role in lymphocyte proliferation, cytokine production by lymphocytes and macrophages and phagocytosis and superoxide production by macrophages and neutrophils. Knowledge of the metabolic fate of glutamine in these cells is important for the understanding of the role and function of this amino acid in the maintenance of the proliferative, phagocytic and secretory capacities of these cells. Glutamine and glucose are poorly oxidized by these cells and might produce important precursors for DNA, RNA, protein and lipid synthesis. The high rate of glutamine utilization and its importance in such cells have raised the question as to the source of this glutamine, which, according to current evidence, appears to be muscle. <![CDATA[<B>Effect of dimethylsulfoxide on sphingomyelinase activity and cholesterol metabolism in Niemann-Pick type C fibroblasts</B>]]> Niemann-Pick type C (NPC) fibroblasts present a large concentration of cholesterol in their cytoplasm due to a still unidentified deficiency in cholesterol metabolism. The influence of dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO) on the amount of intracellular cholesterol was measured in 8 cultures of normal fibroblasts and in 7 fibroblast cultures from NPC patients. DMSO was added to the fibroblast cultures at three different concentrations (1, 2 and 4%, v/v) and the cultures were incubated for 24 h. Sphingomyelinase activity was significantly increased in both groups of cells only when incubated with 2% DMSO (59.4 ± 9.1 and 77.0 ± 9.1 nmol h-1 mg protein-1, controls without and with 2% DMSO, respectively; 47.7 ± 5.2 and 55.8 ± 4.1 nmol h-1 mg protein-1, NPC without and with 2% DMSO, respectively). However, none of the DMSO concentrations used altered the amount of cholesterol in the cytoplasm of NPC cells (0.704 ± 0.049, 0.659 ± 0.041, 0.688 ± 0.063 and 0.733 ± 0.088 mg/mg protein, without DMSO, 1% DMSO, 2% DMSO and 4% DMSO, respectively). This finding suggests that sphingomyelinase deficiency is a secondary defect in NPC and shows that DMSO failed to remove the stored cholesterol. These data do not support the use of DMSO in the treatment of NPC patients. <![CDATA[<b>Expression of the <i>Mycobacterium bovis</i> <i>P36</i> gene in <i>Mycobacterium smegmatis</i> and the baculovirus/insect cell system</b>]]> In the present study we evaluated different systems for the expression of mycobacterial antigen P36 secreted by Mycobacterium bovis. P36 was detected by Western blot using a specific antiserum. The P36 gene was initially expressed in E. coli, under the control of the T7 promoter, but severe proteolysis prevented its purification. We then tried to express P36 in M. smegmatis and insect cells. For M. smegmatis, we used three different plasmid vectors differing in copy number and in the presence of a promoter for expression of heterologous proteins. P36 was detected in the cell extract and culture supernatant in both expression systems and was recognized by sera from M. bovis-infected cattle. To compare the expression level and compartmentalization, the MPB70 antigen was also expressed. The highest production was reached in insect cell supernatants. In conclusion, M. smegmatis and especially the baculovirus expression system are good choices for the production of proteins from pathogenic mycobacteria for the development of mycobacterial vaccines and diagnostic reagents. <![CDATA[<b>Modulation of staphylokinase-dependent plasminogen activation by mono- and divalent ions</b>]]> The effect of several ions (Cl-, Na+, K+, Ca2+) on the rate of plasminogen (Pg) activation by recombinant staphylokinase (rSTA) is reported. Both monovalent and divalent ions affect the rate at which Pg is activated by rSTA, in a concentration-dependent manner (range 0-100 mM). In almost all cases, a decrease of the initial velocity of activation was observed. Cl- showed the most striking inhibitory effect at low concentrations (64% at 10 mM). However, in the presence of a fibrin surface, this inhibition was attenuated to 38%. Surprisingly, 10 mM Ca2+ enhanced the Pg activation rate 21% when a polymerized fibrin matrix was present. These data support the idea that ions can modulate the rate of Pg activation through a mechanism that may be associated with changes in the molecular conformation of the zymogen. This effect is strongly dependent on the presence of a fibrin clot. <![CDATA[<b>A polymerase chain reaction-based assay to identify genotype F of hepatitis B virus</b>]]> We have developed a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay which distinguishes genotype F from the other genotypes of hepatitis B virus (HBV). The method was used to characterize HBV strains isolated in urban areas of the Brazilian Amazon. DNA was amplified in 54 of a total of 78 HBsAg-positive serum samples, using universal, non-genotype-specific primers. Only 4 (7.4%) were identified as genotype F by our genotype-specific PCR assay. This proportion is notably lower than that previously reported in Argentina, Venezuela, Peru, and Central America. <![CDATA[<b>A liver metalloendopeptidase which degrades the circulating hypotensive peptide hormones bradykinin and atrial natriuretic peptide</b>]]> A new metalloendopeptidase was purified to apparent homogeneity from a homogenate of normal human liver using successive steps of chromatography on DEAE-cellulose, hydroxyapatite and Sephacryl S-200. The purified enzyme hydrolyzed the Pro7-Phe8 bond of bradykinin and the Ser25-Tyr26 bond of atrial natriuretic peptide. No cleavage was produced in other peptide hormones such as vasopressin, oxytocin or Met- and Leu-enkephalin. This enzyme activity was inhibited by 1 mM divalent cation chelators such as EDTA, EGTA and o-phenanthroline and was insensitive to 1 µM phosphoramidon and captopril, specific inhibitors of neutral endopeptidase (EC and angiotensin-converting enzyme (EC, respectively. With Mr 85 kDa, the enzyme exhibits optimal activity at pH 7.5. The high affinity of this endopeptidase for bradykinin (Km = 10 µM) and for atrial natriuretic peptide (Km = 5 µM) suggests that it may play a physiological role in the inactivation of these circulating hypotensive peptide hormones. <![CDATA[<b>Detection of point mutations by non-isotopic single strand conformation polymorphism</b>]]> We have developed a procedure for nonradioactive single strand conformation polymorphism analysis and applied it to the detection of point mutations in the human tumor suppressor gene p53. The protocol does not require any particular facilities or equipment, such as radioactive handling, large gel units for sequencing, or a semiautomated electrophoresis system. This technique consists of amplification of DNA fragments by PCR with specific oligonucleotide primers, denaturation, and electrophoresis on small neutral polyacrylamide gels, followed by silver staining. The sensitivity of this procedure is comparable to other described techniques and the method is easy to perform and applicable to a variety of tissue specimens. <![CDATA[<b>Peritoneal fluid modulates the sperm acrosomal exocytosis induced by N-acetylglucosaminyl neoglycoprotein</b>]]> The effect of peritoneal fluid (PF) on the human sperm acrosome reaction (AR) was tested. Sperm was pre-incubated with PF and the AR was induced by calcium ionophore A23187 and a neoglycoprotein bearing N-acetylglycosamine residues (NGP). The AR induced by calcium ionophore was inhibited 40% by PF from controls (PFc) and 50% by PF from the endometriosis (PFe) group, but not by PF from infertile patients without endometriosis (PFi). No significant differences were found in the spontaneous AR. When the AR was induced by NGP, pre-incubation with PFc reduced (60%) the percentage of AR, while PFe and PFi caused no significant differences. The average rates of acrosome reactions obtained in control, NGP- and ionophore-treated sperm showed that NGP-induced exocytosis differed significantly between the PFc (11%) and PFe/PFi groups (17%), and the ionophore-induced AR was higher for PFi (33%) than PFc/PFe (25%). The incidence of the NGP-induced AR was reduced in the first hour of pre-incubation with PFc and remained nearly constant throughout 4 h of incubation. The present data indicate that PF possesses a protective factor which prevents premature AR. <![CDATA[<b>Specific insulin and proinsulin in normal glucose tolerant first-degree relatives of NIDDM patients</b>]]> In order to identify early abnormalities in non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) we determined insulin (using an assay that does not cross-react with proinsulin) and proinsulin concentrations. The proinsulin/insulin ratio was used as an indicator of abnormal ß-cell function. The ratio of the first 30-min increase in insulin to glucose concentrations following the oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT; I30-0/G30-0) was taken as an indicator of insulin secretion. Insulin resistance (R) was evaluated by the homeostasis model assessment (HOMA) method. True insulin and proinsulin were measured during a 75-g OGTT in 35 individuals: 20 with normal glucose tolerance (NGT) and without diabetes among their first-degree relatives (FDR) served as controls, and 15 with NGT who were FDR of patients with NIDDM. The FDR group presented higher insulin (414 pmol/l vs 195 pmol/l; P = 0.04) and proinsulin levels (19.6 pmol/l vs 12.3 pmol/l; P = 0.03) post-glucose load than the control group. When these groups were stratified according to BMI, the obese FDR (N = 8) showed higher fasting and post-glucose insulin levels than the obese NGT (N = 9) (fasting: 64.8 pmol/l vs 7.8 pmol/l; P = 0.04, and 60 min post-glucose: 480.6 pmol/l vs 192 pmol/l; P = 0.01). Also, values for HOMA (R) were higher in the obese FDR compared to obese NGT (2.53 vs 0.30; P = 0.075). These results show that FDR of NIDDM patients have true hyperinsulinemia (which is not a consequence of cross-reactivity with proinsulin) and hyperproinsulinemia and no dysfunction of a qualitative nature in ß-cells. <![CDATA[<b>Pituitary glycoprotein hormone <FONT FACE="Symbol">a</font>-subunit secretion by cirrhotic patients</b>]]> Secretion of the <FONT FACE="Symbol">a</font>-subunit of pituitary glycoprotein hormones usually follows the secretion of intact gonadotropins and is increased in gonadal failure and decreased in isolated gonadotropin deficiency. The aim of the present study was to determine the levels of the <FONT FACE="Symbol">a</font>-subunit in the serum of patients with cirrhosis of the liver and to compare the results obtained for eugonadal cirrhotic patients with those obtained for cirrhotic patients with hypogonadotropic hypogonadism. Forty-seven of 63 patients with cirrhosis (74.6%) presented hypogonadism (which was central in 45 cases and primary in 2), 7 were eugonadal, and 9 women were in normal menopause. The serum <FONT FACE="Symbol">a</font>-subunit was measured by the fluorimetric method using monoclonal antibodies. Cross-reactivity with LH, TSH, FSH and hCG was 6.5, 1.2, 4.3 and 1.1%, respectively, with an intra-assay coefficient of variation (CV) of less than 5% and an interassay CV of 5%, and sensitivity limit of 4 ng/l. The serum <FONT FACE="Symbol">a</font>-subunit concentration ranged from 36 to 6253 ng/l, with a median of 273 ng/l. The median was 251 ng/l for patients with central hypogonadism and 198 ng/l for eugonadal patients. The correlation between the <FONT FACE="Symbol">a</font>-subunit and basal LH levels was significant both in the total sample (r = 0.48, P&lt;0.01) and in the cirrhotic patients with central hypogonadism (r = 0.33, P = 0.02). Among men with central hypogonadism there was a negative correlation between <FONT FACE="Symbol">a</font>-subunit levels and total testosterone levels (r = 0.54, P&lt;0.01) as well as free testosterone levels (r = -0.53, P&lt;0.01). In conclusion, although the <FONT FACE="Symbol">a</font>-subunit levels are correlated with LH levels, at present they cannot be used as markers for hypogonadism in patients with cirrhosis of the liver. <![CDATA[<b>Differential <i>in vitro </i>pathogenicity of predatory fungi of the genus <i>Monacrosporium </i>for phytonematodes, free-living nematodes and parasitic nematodes of cattle</b>]]> In vitro tests were carried out on the pathogenicity of nine isolates of the predatory fungi of the genus Monacrosporium (5 M. sinense isolates, 3 M. appendiculatum and 1 M. thaumasium isolate) for a phytonematode (second stage juveniles from Meloidogyne incognita, race 3), a free-living nematode (Panagrellus spp), and two gastrointestinal parasitic nematodes of cattle (infective larvae of Cooperia punctata and Haemonchus placei). A suspension containing 2,000 nematodes from each species was added to Petri dishes containing fungi and grown on 2% water-agar medium at 25oC in the dark for up to 7 days. The dishes were examined every other day for 7 days and predation-free nematodes were counted. The results showed that the free-living nematodes, Panagrellus spp, were the most susceptible (P&lt;0.05), followed by the phytonematode M. incognita, while the controls were <FONT FACE="Symbol">³</font>98.5% viable. However, a variable susceptibility of the nematodes to different fungi was observed. This indicates that the use of predatory fungi for the environmental control of nematodes will be limited by the multiplicity of nematodes in the environment and their differential susceptibility to fungal isolates of the same genus. <![CDATA[<b>The carotid body of the spontaneous insulin-dependent diabetic rat</b>]]> The carotid bodies from adult spontaneous insulin-dependent diabetic rats (strain BB/S) were perfusion-fixed at normal arterial blood pressure with 3% phosphate-buffered glutaraldehyde and compared with the organs from control rats (strain BB/Sc) prepared in the same way. Serial 5-µm sections were cut, stained, and using an interactive image analysis system, were analysed to determine the volumes of the carotid body and its vascular and extravascular compartments. There was no evidence of systemic arterial disease in the carotid stem arteries in either group of animals, and the microvasculature of the organs appeared normal by light microscopy. The volume of the carotid body was unchanged 3 months after the onset of diabetes but was increased at 6 months. The total vascular volume of the organ was unchanged, but the volume of the small vessels (5-12 µm) was increased. In the control group the small vessels comprised 5% of the total volume of the carotid body, or about 44% of the vascular compartment. The percentage of small vessels increased at 3 months in the diabetic group, but had returned to normal at 6 months. The extravascular volume followed the same pattern as the total carotid body volume and so did not change appreciably when expressed as a percentage of the total volume of the organ. The increase in size of the carotid body in diabetic rats is due, therefore, to an augmented extravascular volume. In one diabetic specimen the carotid sinus nerve showed signs of diabetic neuropathy, axonal swelling and intramyelinic oedema. The clinical implications of these results are discussed. <![CDATA[<b>Postnatal development of rats exposed to fluoxetine or venlafaxine during the third week of pregnancy</b>]]> The aim of the present study was to compare the toxic effects of fluoxetine (F) (8 and 16 mg/kg) and venlafaxine (V) (40 and 80 mg/kg) administered during the third week of pregnancy on early development of rats. Both antidepressants were administered by gavage on pregnancy days 15 to 20 to groups of 10 to 12 animals each. Duration of gestation, food and water consumption, number of live pups and birth weight were recorded. Litters were culled to six pups at birth (day 1) and followed for growth until weaning (day 25). On day 60, a male and a female from each litter were injected with the 5-HT1 agonist, 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine (6 mg/kg, ip) and the serotonergic syndrome was graded. Fluoxetine but not venlafaxine reduced the duration of pregnancy when compared to the control (C) group (F = 21.1 days and C = 21.6 days, mean, P&lt;0.02; maximum = 22 days and minimum = 21 days in both groups). The highest doses of both fluoxetine, 16 mg/kg (F16), and venlafaxine, 80 mg/kg (V80), reduced the food intake of pregnant rats, resulting in different rates of body weight gain during treatment (from pregnancy day 15 to day 20): F16 = 29.0 g, V80 = 28.7 g vs C = 39.5 g (median). Birth weight was influenced by treatment and sex (P&lt;0.05; two-way ANOVA). Both doses of fluoxetine or venlafaxine reduced the body weight of litters; however, the body weight of litters from treated dams was equal to the weight of control litters by the time of weaning. At weaning there was no significant difference in weight between sexes. There was no difference among groups in number of live pups at birth, stillbirths, mortality during the lactation period or in the manifestation of serotonergic syndrome in adult rats. The occurrence of low birth weight among pups born to dams which did not show reduced food ingestion or reduction of body weight gain during treatment with lower doses of fluoxetine or venlafaxine suggests that these drugs may have a deleterious effect on prenatal development when administered during pregnancy. In addition, fluoxetine slightly but significantly affected the duration of pregnancy (about half a day), an effect not observed in the venlafaxine-treated groups. <![CDATA[<B>Behavioral profiles displayed by rats in an elevated asymmetric plus-maze: effects of diazepam</B>]]> When rats are exposed to unknown environments where novelty and fear-inducing characteristics are present (conflictive environments), some specific behaviors are induced and exploration is apparently modulated by fear. In our laboratory, a new type of plus-maze was designed as a model of conflictive exploration. The maze is composed of four arms with different geometrical characteristics, differing from each other by the presence or absence of walls. The degree of asymmetry was as follows: NW, no wall arm; SW, a single high wall present; HL, a low and a high wall present, and HH, two high walls present. The four arms were arranged at 90o angles and the apparatus was called the elevated asymmetric plus-maze (APM). The purpose of the present study was to assess the behavioral profile of rats exposed for a single time to the APM with or without treatment with benzodiazepine. Increasing doses of diazepam were injected intraperitoneally in several groups of male, 90-day-old Holtzman rats. Distilled water was injected in control animals. Thirty minutes after treatment all rats were exposed singly to a 5-min test in the APM. Diazepam induced a biphasic modification of exploration in the NW and SW arms. The increase in the exploration score was evident at low doses of diazepam (0.25-1.0 mg/kg body weight) and the decrease in exploration was found with the higher doses of diazepam (2.0-3.0 mg/kg body weight). Non-exploratory behaviors (permanency) were not affected by benzodiazepine treatment. In the HL arm, exploration was not modified but permanency was increased in a dose-dependent manner. In the HH arm, exploration and permanency were not affected. Results are compatible with the idea that exploration-processing mechanisms in conflictive environments are modulated by fear-processing mechanisms of the brain. <![CDATA[<b>Effect of thyroparathyroidectomy on urinary acidification in diabetic rats</b>]]> In previous studies we have shown stimulation of renal acid excretion in the proximal tubules of rats with diabetes of short duration, with no important alterations in glomerular hemodynamics; on the other hand, in thyroparathyroidectomized rats (TPTX model), a significant decrease in renal acid excretion, glomerular filtration rate (GFR) and renal plasma flow (RPF) was detected. Since important changes in the parathyroid hormone-vitamin D-Ca axis are observed in the diabetic state, the present study was undertaken to investigate the renal repercussions of thyroparathyroidectomy in rats previously made diabetic by streptozotocin (45 mg/kg). Four to 6 days after the induction of diabetes (DM), a group of rats were thyroparathyroidectomized (DM + TPTX). Renal functional parameters were evaluated by measuring the inulin and sodium para-aminohippurate clearance on the tenth day. The decrease in the GFR and RPF observed in TPTX was not reversed by diabetes since the same alterations were observed in DM + TPTX. Net acid (NA) excretion was unchanged in DM (6.19 ± 0.54), decreased in TPTX (3.76 ± 0.25) and returned to normal levels in DM + TPTX (5.54 ± 0.72) when compared to the control group (6.34 ± 0.14 µmol min-1 kg-1). The results suggest that PTH plays an important vasodilator role regarding glomerular hemodynamics, since in its absence the impairment in GFR and RPF was not reversed by the diabetic state. However, with respect to acid excretion, the presence of diabetes was able to overcome the negative stimulus represented by TPTX. <![CDATA[<b>Evaluation of electromyographic activity and heart rate responses to isometric exercise. The role played by muscular mass and type</b>]]> The purpose of the present study was to examine the relationship between the electromyographic (EMG) activity and heart rate (HR) responses induced by isometric exercise performed by knee extension (KE) and flexion (KF) in men. Fifteen healthy male subjects, 21 ± 1.3 years (mean ± SD), were submitted to KE and KF isometric exercise tests at 100% of maximal voluntary contraction (MVC). The exercises were performed with one leg (right or left) and with two legs simultaneously, for 10 s in the sitting position with the hip and knee flexed at 90o. EMG activity (root mean square values) and HR (beats/min) were recorded simultaneously both at rest and throughout the sustained contraction. The HR responses to isometric exercise in KE and KF were similar when performed with one and two legs. However, the HR increase was always significantly higher in KE than KF (P&lt;0.05), whereas the EMG activity was higher in KE than in KF (P&lt;0.05), regardless of the muscle mass (one or two legs) involved in the effort. The correlation coefficients between HR response and the EMG activity during KE (r = 0.33, P&gt;0.05) and KF (r = 0.15, P&gt;0.05) contractions were not significant. These results suggest that the predominant mechanism responsible for the larger increase in HR response to KE as compared to KF in our study could be dependent on qualitative and quantitative differences in the fiber type composition found in each muscle group. This mechanism seems to demand a higher activation of motor units with a corresponding increase in central command to the cardiovascular centers that modulate HR control. <![CDATA[<b>Staircase in mammalian muscle without light chain phosphorylation</b>]]> In disuse atrophied skeletal muscle, the staircase response is virtually absent and light chain phosphorylation does not occur. The purpose of the present study was to determine if staircase could be restored in atrophied muscle with continued absence of myosin light chain phosphorylation, by reducing what appears to be an otherwise enhanced calcium release. Control (untreated) and sham-operated female Sprague-Dawley rats were compared with animals after 2 weeks of complete inactivity induced by tetrodotoxin (TTX) application to the left sciatic nerve. In situ isometric contractile responses of rat gastrocnemius muscle were analyzed before and after administration of dantrolene sodium (DS), a drug which is known to inhibit Ca2+ release in skeletal muscle. Twitch active force (AF) was attenuated by DS from 2.2 ± 0.2 N, 2.7 ± 0.1 N and 2.4 ± 0.2 N to 0.77 ± 0.2 N, 1.05 ± 0.1 N and 1.01 ± 0.2 N in TTX (N = 5), sham (N = 11) and control (N = 7) muscles, respectively. Following dantrolene treatment, 10 s of 10-Hz stimulation increased AF to 1.32 ± 0.2 N, 1.52 ± 0.1 N and 1.45 ± 0.2 N for the TTX, sham and control groups, respectively, demonstrating a positive staircase response. Regulatory light chain (R-LC) phosphorylation was lower for TTX-treated (5.5 ± 5.5%) than for control (26.1 ± 5.3%) and sham (20.0 ± 5%) groups. There was no significant change from resting levels for any of the groups after DS treatment (P = 0.88). This study shows that treatment with dantrolene permits staircase in atrophied muscle as well as control muscle, by a mechanism which appears to be independent of R-LC phosphorylation.