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Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2005 May;288(5):H2163-70. Epub 2004 Dec 30.

Nitrite is an alternative source of NO in vivo.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology, The University of Tokushima School of Medicine, Tokushima, Japan.


In this study, we investigated whether orally administered nitrite is changed to NO and whether nitrite attenuates hypertension in a dose-dependent manner. We utilized a stable isotope of [15N]nitrite (15NO2-) as a source of nitrite to distinguish between endogenous nitrite and that exogenously administered and measured hemoglobin (Hb)-NO as an index of circulating NO in whole blood using electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy. When 1 mg/kg Na15NO2 was orally administered to rats, an apparent EPR signal derived from Hb15NO (A(Z) = 23.4 gauss) appeared in the blood. The peak blood HbNO concentration occurred at the first measurement after intake (5 min) for treatment with 1 and 3 mg/kg (HbNO: 4.93 +/- 0.52 and 10.58 +/- 0.40 microM, respectively) and at 15 min with 10 mg/kg (HbNO: 38.27 +/- 9.23 microM). In addition, coadministration of nitrite (100 mg/l drinking water) with N(omega)-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester (L-NAME; 1 g/l) for 3 wk significantly attenuated the L-NAME-induced hypertension (149 +/- 10 mmHg) compared with L-NAME alone (170 +/- 13 mmHg). Furthermore, this phenomenon was associated with an increase in circulating HbNO. Our findings clearly indicate that orally ingested nitrite can be an alternative to L-arginine as a source of NO in vivo and may explain, at least in part, the mechanism of the nitrite/nitrate-rich Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet-induced hypotensive effects.

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