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Free Radic Biol Med. 2005 May 1;38(9):1164-9.

Regional and whole-body markers of nitric oxide production following hyperemic stimuli.

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Department of Medicine, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710, USA.


The measurement of nitric oxide (NO) bioavailability is of great clinical interest in the assessment of vascular health. However, NO is rapidly oxidized to form nitrite and nitrate and thus its direct detection in biological systems is difficult. Venous plasma nitrite (nM concentrations) has been shown to be a marker of forearm NO production following pharmacological stimulation of the endothelium utilizing acetylcholine (Ach). In the present study, we demonstrate, within 15 apparently healthy subjects (34.1 +/- 7.3 years), that reactive hyperemia of the forearm, a physiological endothelial stimulus, results in a 52.5% increase in mean plasma nitrite concentrations (415 +/- 64.0 to 634 +/- 57.1 nM, P = 0.015). However, plasma nitrite is readily oxidized to nitrate within plasma, and thus its utility as a marker of NO production within the clinical setting may be limited. Alternatively, NOx (predominantly nitrate) is relatively stable in plasma (microM concentrations), but is produced by sources other than the vasculature and has been shown to be unsuitable as a measure of localized NO production. We reasoned that the principle source of NOx generation during exercise is NO production and thus have examined the change in NOx following treadmill exercise stress. In this study, 12 apparently healthy subjects showed an increase (from baseline) in venous NOx at peak effort and during recovery (12 +/- 9.1 and 17 +/- 15.3 microM respectively, P < 0.05). In contrast, 10 subjects with cardiovascular disease showed no significant increases. Additionally, a correlation between VO(2peak) and the change in circulating NOx (r(2) = 0.4585, P < or = 0.01) indicated the subjects who could exercise hardest also produced the most NO.

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