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Eur J Pharmacol. 2006 Dec 3;551(1-3):92-7. Epub 2006 Sep 12.

Differential effects of low and high dose folic acid on endothelial dysfunction in a murine model of mild hyperhomocysteinaemia.

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Wales Heart Research Institute, Wales College of Medicine, Cardiff University, Heath Park Campus, Cardiff, CF14 4XN, United Kingdom.


The exact mechanism(s) by which hyperhomocysteinaemia promotes vascular disease remains unclear. Moreover, recent evidence suggests that the beneficial effect of folic acid on endothelial function is independent of homocysteine-lowering. In the present study the effect of a low (400 microg/70 kg/day) and high (5 mg/70 kg/day) dose folic acid supplement on endothelium-dependent relaxation in the isolated perfused mesenteric bed of heterozygous cystathionine beta-synthase deficient mice was investigated. Elevated total plasma homocysteine and impaired relaxation responses to methacholine were observed in heterozygous mice. In the presence of N(G)-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester relaxation responses in wild-type tissues were reduced, but in heterozygous tissues were abolished. Clotrimazole and 18alpha-glycyrrhetinic acid, both inhibitors of non-nitric oxide/non-prostanoid-induced endothelium-dependent relaxation, reduced responses to methacholine in wild-type but not heterozygous tissues. The combination of N(G)-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester and either clotrimazole or 18alpha-glycyrrhetinic acid completely inhibited relaxation responses in wild-type tissues. Both low and high dose folic acid increased plasma folate, reduced total plasma homocysteine and reversed endothelial dysfunction in heterozygous mice. A greater increase in plasma folate in the high dose group was accompanied by a more significant effect on endothelial function. In the presence of N(G)-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester, a significant residual relaxation response was evident in tissues from low and high dose folic acid treated heterozygous mice. These data suggest that the impaired mesenteric relaxation in heterozygous mice is largely due to loss of the non-nitric oxide/non-prostanoid component. While low dose folic acid may restore this response in a homocysteine-dependent manner, the higher dose has an additional effect on nitric oxide-mediated relaxation that would appear to be independent of homocysteine lowering.

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