We investigated mechanisms underlying death of cultured rat liver sinusoidal endothelial cells exposed to chemical hypoxia with KCN (2.5 mmol/L) to simulate the adenosine triphosphate (ATP) depletion and reductive stress of anoxia. During chemical hypoxia, acidotic pH prevented cell death. Glucose (0.3-10 mmol/L) also prevented cell killing. Cytoprotection by glucose but not acidosis was associated with prevention of ATP depletion. After 4 hours of chemical hypoxia at pH 6.2 (simulated ischemia), rapid cell death occurred when pH was restored to pH 7.4 with or without washout of KCN (simulated reperfusion). This pH-dependent reperfusion injury (pH paradox) was prevented after KCN washout at pH 6.2. Glycine (0.3-3 mmol/L) also prevented the pH paradox, but glucose did not. The initial protection by acidotic pH and glycine during simulated reperfusion was lost when pH was later restored to 7.4 or glycine was subsequently removed. Mitochondria depolarized during chemical hypoxia. After washout of cyanide, mitochondrial membrane potential (ΔΨ) did not recover in cells that subsequently lost viability. Conversely, those cells that repolarized after cyanide washout did not subsequently lose viability. The actin cytoskeleton and focal adhesions became severely disrupted during chemical hypoxia at both pH 6.2 and 7.4 and did not recover after cyanide washout under any condition. Glucose during chemical hypoxia prevented cytoskeletal disruption. In conclusion, endothelial cell damage during simulated ischemia/reperfusion involves mitochondrial dysfunction, ATP depletion, and ATP-dependent cytoskeletal disruption. Glycine and acidotic pH prevented cell killing after reperfusion but did not reverse mitochondrial injury or the profound disruption to the cytoskeleton.
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