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J Biol Chem. 2009 May 8;284(19):12691-700. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M809295200. Epub 2009 Mar 12.

Tetrahydrobiopterin recycling, a key determinant of endothelial nitric-oxide synthase-dependent signaling pathways in cultured vascular endothelial cells.

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  • 1Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Divisions, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4) is a key redox-active cofactor in endothelial isoform of NO synthase (eNOS) catalysis and is an important determinant of NO-dependent signaling pathways. BH4 oxidation is observed in vascular cells in the setting of the oxidative stress associated with diabetes. However, the relative roles of de novo BH4 synthesis and BH4 redox recycling in the regulation of eNOS bioactivity remain incompletely defined. We used small interference RNA (siRNA)-mediated "knockdown" GTP cyclohydrolase-1 (GTPCH1), the rate-limiting enzyme in BH4 biosynthesis, and dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR), an enzyme-recycling oxidized BH4 (7,8-dihydrobiopterin (BH2)), and studied the effects on eNOS regulation and biopterin metabolism in cultured aortic endothelial cells. Knockdown of either DHFR or GTPCH1 attenuated vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)-induced eNOS activity and NO production; these effects were recovered by supplementation with BH4. In contrast, supplementation with BH2 abolished VEGF-induced NO production. DHFR but not GTPCH1 knockdown increased reactive oxygen species (ROS) production. The increase in ROS production seen with siRNA-mediated DHFR knockdown was abolished either by simultaneous siRNA-mediated knockdown of eNOS or by supplementing with BH4. In contrast, addition of BH2 increased ROS production; this effect of BH2 was blocked by BH4 supplementation. DHFR but not GTPCH1 knockdown inhibited VEGF-induced dephosphorylation of eNOS at the inhibitory site serine 116; these effects were recovered by supplementation with BH4. These studies demonstrate a striking contrast in the pattern of eNOS regulation seen by the selective modulation of BH4 salvage/reduction versus de novo BH4 synthetic pathways. Our findings suggest that the depletion of BH4 is not sufficient to perturb NO signaling, but rather that concentration of intracellular BH2, as well as the relative concentrations of BH4 and BH2, together play a determining role in the redox regulation of eNOS-modulated endothelial responses.

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