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Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2000 Jun;20(6):1557-64.

Plasma concentration of asymmetric dimethylarginine, an endogenous inhibitor of nitric oxide synthase, is elevated in monkeys with hyperhomocyst(e)inemia or hypercholesterolemia.

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Institute of Clinical Pharmacology, Medical School, Hannover, Germany.


Hyperhomocyst(e)inemia is associated with endothelial dysfunction. Mechanisms responsible for endothelial dysfunction in hyperhomocyst(e)inemia may involve impaired bioavailability of endothelium-dependent nitric oxide. We tested the hypothesis that hyperhomocyst(e)inemia is associated with an elevated plasma concentration of asymmetric dimethylarginine (ADMA), an endogenous inhibitor of nitric oxide synthase. One group of adult cynomolgus monkeys was fed either a control or hyperhomocyst(e)inemic diet for 4 weeks in a randomized crossover design. The second group was fed an atherogenic diet that produces both hyperhomocyst(e)inemia and hypercholesterolemia for 17 months, followed by an atherogenic diet supplemented with B vitamins for 6 months to decrease plasma homocyst(e)ine concentration. Human endothelial cells were used to study the effects of methionine and homocysteine in the presence or absence of B vitamins or the methylation inhibitor S-adenosylhomocysteine on the formation of ADMA and its inactive stereoisomer, symmetric dimethylarginine. The hyperhomocyst(e)inemic diet produced 2- to 3-fold increases in plasma levels of homocyst(e)ine and ADMA (both P<0.05). The atherogenic diet also produced elevated plasma levels of homocyst(e)ine and ADMA (both P<0. 05). Supplementation of the atherogenic diet with B vitamins decreased the plasma levels of homocyst(e)ine but did not affect the plasma levels of ADMA or endothelial function. There was a strong correlation between plasma ADMA and homocyst(e)ine and a strong inverse correlation between ADMA and carotid artery relaxation to acetylcholine. ADMA release by cultured endothelial cells was significantly increased in the presence of methionine or homocysteine. This effect was blocked by S-adenosylhomocysteine but not by B vitamins. We conclude that plasma levels of ADMA are elevated in hyperhomocyst(e)inemia. Because ADMA acts as a competitive inhibitor of endothelial nitric oxide synthase, these findings suggest a novel mechanism for impaired endothelial function in hyperhomocyst(e)inemia.

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