Small-for-size liver grafts are a serious obstacle for partial orthotopic liver transplantation. Activated protein C (APC), a potent anticoagulant serine protease, is known to have cell-protective properties due to its anti-inflammatory and antiapoptotic activities. This study was designed to examine the cytoprotective effects of a preservation solution containing APC on small-for-size liver grafts, with special attention paid to ischemia-reperfusion injury and shear stress in rats. APC exerted cytoprotective effects, as evidenced by (1) increased 7-day graft survival; (2) decreased initial portal pressure and improved hepatic microcirculation; (3) decreased levels of aminotransferase and improved histological features of hepatic ischemia-reperfusion injury; (4) suppressed infiltration of neutrophils and monocytes/macrophages; (5) reduced hepatic expression of tumor necrosis factor α and interleukin 6; (6) decreased serum levels of hyaluronic acid, which indicated attenuation of sinusoidal endothelial cell injury; (7) increased hepatic levels of nitric oxide via up-regulated hepatic endothelial nitric oxide synthesis expression together with down-regulated hepatic inducible nitric oxide synthase expression; (8) decreased hepatic levels of endothelin 1; and (9) reduced hepatocellular apoptosis by down-regulated caspase-8 and caspase-3 activities. These results suggest that a preservation solution containing APC is a potential novel and safe product for small-for-size liver transplantation, alleviating graft injury via anti-inflammatory and antiapoptotic effects and vasorelaxing conditions.
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