The mechanism of the antiulcer effect of omeprazole was studied placing emphasis on its role to block oxidative damage and apoptosis during ulceration. Dose-response studies on gastroprotection in stress and indomethacin-induced ulcer and inhibition of pylorus ligation-induced acid secretion indicate that omeprazole significantly blocks gastric lesions at lower dose (2.5 mg/kg) without inhibiting acid secretion, suggesting an independent mechanism for its antiulcer effect. Time course studies on gastroprotection and acid reduction also indicate that omeprazole almost completely blocks lesions at 1 h when acid inhibition is partial. The severity of lesions correlates well with the increased level of endogenous hydroxyl radical (.OH), which when scavenged by dimethyl sulfoxide causes around 90% reduction of the lesions, indicating that .OH plays a major role in gastric damage. Omeprazole blocks stress-induced increased generation of .OH and associated lipid peroxidation and protein oxidation, indicating that its antioxidant role plays a major part in preventing oxidative damage. Omeprazole also prevents stress-induced DNA fragmentation, suggesting its antiapoptotic role to block cell death during ulceration. The oxidative damage of DNA by .OH generated in vitro is also protected by omeprazole or its analogue, lansoprazole. Lansoprazole when incubated in a .OH-generating system scavenges .OH to produce four oxidation products of which the major one in mass spectroscopy shows a molecular ion peak at m/z 385, which is 16 mass units higher than that of lansoprazole (m/z 369). The product shows no additional aromatic proton signal for aromatic hydroxylation in 1H NMR. The product absorbing at 278 nm shows no alkaline shift for phenols, thereby excluding the formation of hydroxylansoprazole. The product is assigned to lansoprazole sulfone formed by the addition of one oxygen atom at the sulfur center following attack by the .OH. Thus, omeprazole plays a significant role in gastroprotection by acting as a potent antioxidant and antiapoptotic molecule.
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