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Folia Med (Plovdiv). 2008;50(1):12-21.

Asymmetric dimethylarginine--mechanisms and targets for therapeutic management.

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  • 1Clinic of Cardiology, St. George University Hospital, Medical University, Plovdiv, Bulgaria.


Evidence has been accrued recently that chronic high levels of asymmetric dimethylarginine (ADMA) can be directly beneficial to the treatment of atherosclerotic vascular disorders thus making the substance a promising new therapeutic target. A therapeutic target can be theoretically each stage in the process of generation and elimination of asymmetric dimethylarginine. The methylation of L-arginine residues is a universal biological process involving hundreds of proteins but still with unknown effects. Interference with these mechanisms can generate ambiguous and speculative discussions. Supplementation with L-arginine seems to be the most natural way to reverse the detrimental effect of ADMA on the endothelium. The enzymatic activity of endogenous nitric oxide synthase is regulated by the ratio between the concentrations of L-arginine (the natural substrate) and that of ADMA (the endogenous inhibitor): in the presence of normal L-arginine levels, any elevation ofADMA levels may cause relative L-arginine deficiency thus attenuating the activity of the endogenous nitric oxide synthase. Target replacement therapy with L-arginine to increase the L-arginine plasma levels results in the normalisation of the L-arginine/ADMA ratio in the presence of higher levels of the latter. There is still some controversy about the effects of the most frequently used drugs on asymmetric dimethylarginine. Most of the relevant studies show that statins do not affect the ADMA levels. On the other hand, patients with high levels of ADMA are resistant to statin therapy--to improve the endothelium-dependent vasodilation they need a combined therapy with L-arginine. The angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors and the angiotensin receptor blockers are the most extensively studied substances, the studies predominantly centring on confirming their ADMA reducing effect. Until the specific ADMA-reducing therapy becomes readily available, it is the therapies of modification of the risk factors causing the increase of ADMA or the depletion of L-arginine, and the L-arginine replacement therapy that are the most realistic therapeutic solutions for patients with high plasma levels of ADMA because the synthesis of nitric oxide correlates with the L-arginine/ADMA ratio. A study was conducted in the Surgery of Preventive Cardiology with the Clinic of Cardiology in Plovdiv which included 40 patients with pronounced hypercholesterolemia (HC)--it was found that a one-month therapy with 40 mg simvastatin did not change statistically significantly ADMA plasma levels in spite of the optimal lipid regulation.

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