Reactive oxygen metabolites are potent inflammatory mediators that may be involved in tissue injury in inflammatory bowel disease. To evaluate their role in inflammatory bowel disease, we investigated the effects of lowering the activities of reactive oxygen metabolites in experimental colitis induced by intracolonic administration of acetic acid in rats. Intracolonic administration of 5% acetic acid caused severe inflammation (mean (SEM) inflammatory score was 24.3 (0.7) of a maximum score of 32). Acetic acid at 2.5% produced moderate inflammation (score = 17 (1.4) v 4.0 (0.5) in control rats). This lower dose was used for subsequent experiments. Specific superoxide anion scavenger methoxypolyethylene glycol:superoxide dismutase, and reactive oxygen metabolites scavenger, sulfasalazine, significantly decreased the severity of inflammation (scores: 8 (4.4) and 9.8 (2.2) respectively). The xanthine oxidase inhibitors, tungsten and pterin aldehyde, failed to improve inflammation but another xanthine oxidase inhibitor, allopurinol, a compound with known superoxide anion scavenging effect, did limit the inflammation (10(2)). Inhibition of hydroxyl radical production by deferoxamine or lowering hydroxyl radical values by a scavenger, dimethyl sulfoxide, did not affect the severity of inflammation. These data suggest: (1) that reactive oxygen metabolites play an important role in experimental colitis, (2) that the xanthine oxidase pathway is not a major source of reactive oxygen metabolites in colitis, and (3) that tissue injury in experimental colitis is not caused by generation of hydroxyl radicals.
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