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Hypertension. 2000 Apr;35(4):936-41.

Pharmacological concentrations of ascorbic acid are required for the beneficial effect on endothelial vasomotor function in hypertension.

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  • 1Evans Department of Medicine and Whitaker Cardiovascular Institute, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA, USA.


Increased production of superoxide anion may contribute to impaired bioactivity of endothelium-derived nitric oxide in hypertension. Ascorbic acid is capable of scavenging superoxide anion; however, experimental studies have shown that high physiological concentrations (>1 mmol/L) of ascorbic acid are required to prevent superoxide-mediated vascular dysfunction. To seek kinetic evidence that superoxide anion contributes to endothelial vasomotor dysfunction in human hypertension, we examined the effects of 2.4 or 24 mg/min ascorbic acid intra-arterial infusions on forearm blood flow responses to methacholine or sodium nitroprusside in 30 patients with hypertension and 22 age-matched controls. Endothelium-dependent vasodilation to methacholine was significantly impaired in the hypertensive patients, with a response to the highest dose of methacholine (10 microg/min) of 12.3+/-6.7 compared with 16.1+/-5.8 mL. min(-1). dL tissue(-1) in the controls (P<0.001). The response to sodium nitroprusside was equivalent in the 2 groups. Ascorbic acid at 24 mg/min significantly improved the forearm blood flow response to methacholine in hypertensive patients with a peak response of 16.1+/-7.1 mL. min(-1). dL tissue(-1) (P=0.001). This dose produced a cephalic vein ascorbic acid concentration of 3.2+/-1. 4 mmol/L. In contrast, ascorbic acid at 2.4 mg/min had no effect on the methacholine response. Ascorbic acid at both doses had no effect on the vasodilator response to sodium nitroprusside in hypertensive patients or the methacholine response in the controls. These results agree with the predicted kinetics for superoxide anion-mediated impairment of endothelium-derived nitric oxide action. Thus, superoxide anion may contribute to impaired endothelium-dependent vasodilation in patients with hypertension.

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