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Effect of L-arginine-nitric oxide system on the metabolism of essential fatty acids in chemical-induced diabetes mellitus.

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  • 1EFA Sciences, Inc., Norwood, MA 02062, USA.


Several studies have shown that the activities of delta-6-desaturase and delta-5-desaturase are depressed in experimental diabetes and in humans with insulin- and non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (type I and type II diabetes mellitus respectively). Furthermore, treatment with insulin is known to correct the defects in desaturases in rats and humans with diabetes, especially in type I. In a recent study, we demonstrated that L-arginine and nitric oxide can prevent alloxan-induced beta cell damage, and the severity of diabetes, and restore the antioxidant status to near normal levels. But, no information is available as to the relationship between L-arginine-nitric oxide system and the metabolism of essential fatty acids in diabetes mellitus. In the present study, it was noted that the plasma levels of saturated fatty acids: stearic and palmitic were increased where as unsaturated fatty acids such as oleic, linoleic, gamma-linolenic and eicosapentaenoic acids (OA, LA, GLA and EPA respectively) were decreased in alloxan-induced diabetic rats. In the liver phospholipid (PL) fraction, GLA, DGLA (dihomo-GLA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) were decreased in the alloxan-treated group; in the muscle PL fraction, LA, GLA and DGLA were low, whereas an increase in the saturated fatty acid content was noted. L-arginine (the precursor of nitric oxide) and sodium nitroprusside (a nitric oxide donor) treatment of alloxan-induced diabetic rats enhanced the levels of LA, GLA and DGLA. Further, nitric oxide synthase inhibitor, L-NMMA, prevented this beneficial action of L-arginine-nitric oxide system on essential fatty acid metabolism. The abnormalities in the essential fatty acid metabolism observed also reverted to normalcy following control of diabetes with insulin. These results indicate that nitric oxide can enhance the activities of delta-6- and delta-5 desaturases, which are depressed in diabetes, and suggests that there is a close interaction between L-arginine-nitric oxide system and the metabolism of essential fatty acids.

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