Background. Wound repair results from a series of highly orchestrated cellular and biochemical events, including increased synthesis of the bioregulatory molecule nitric oxide (NO). The goal of this work was to test the functional role of NO in promotion of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) production and the vigorous granulation tissue formation characteristic of this wound model. Methods. A ventral hernia, surgically created in the abdominal walls of 12 swine, was repaired with silicone sheeting and skin closure. An osmotic infusion pump, inserted in a remote subcutaneous pocket, delivered saline solution (n = 6) or the selective inducible NO synthase inhibitor N6 (iminoethyl)-L-lysine (L-NIL; n = 6) into the wound environment. Granulation tissue thickness was determined with ultrasongraphy, and local wound perfusion was measured with laser Doppler analysis for 2 weeks. Fluid was aspirated serially from the wound compartment for measurement of nitrite/nitrate, VEGF, and transforming growth factor-β1 concentrations. On day 14, the animals were killed and the abdominal wall was harvested for immunohistochemical and molecular analysis. Results. In animals that received saline solution, a nearly linear 4-fold increase in granulation tissue thickness was measured during the 14-day interval. In contrast, in animals that received L-NIL, day 14 granulation tissue thickness was essentially unchanged from the day 2 values of saline solution-treated animals. Moreover, in the L-NIL animals, ultrasonography was unable to resolve the angiogenic zone typical of controls, and correspondingly, wound vessel count and vascular surface area estimates derived from image analysis of histologic sections were 2-fold to 3-fold lower in the L-NIL animals compared with controls. Reductions in basal (2-fold) and heat-provoked (2.5-fold) wound perfusion were noted in L-NIL animals. Wound fluid nitrite/nitrate and VEGF levels were strikingly (4-fold and 5-fold, respectively) reduced in L-NIL animals on days 9 to 14. Immunochemistry results showed reduced VEGF protein content in granulation tissue and keratinocytes within the hyperproliferative epithelium at wound edge. Finally, transforming growth factor-β1 levels were unaffected by L-NIL treatment. Conclusion. VEGF production in granulation tissue is dependent on the presence of functionally active inducible NO synthase and hence, the production of NO. NO and VEGF are therefore defined as key regulators of granulation tissue formation.
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