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Circulation. 1998 Jan 27;97(3):237-41.

5-methyltetrahydrofolate, the active form of folic acid, restores endothelial function in familial hypercholesterolemia.

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Department of Nephrology, University Hospital Utrecht, The Netherlands.



Impaired nitric oxide (NO) activity is an early event in the pathogenesis of cardiovascular disease, resulting from either reduced NO formation or increased NO degradation. Administration of tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4), an essential cofactor for NO production, could restore NO activity in familial hypercholesterolemia (FH). Because folates have been suggested to stimulate endogenous BH4 regeneration, we hypothesized that administration of 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF, the active circulating form of folate) might improve NO formation in FH.


We studied the effects of 5-MTHF on NO bioavailability in vivo in 10 patients with FH and 10 matched control subjects by venous occlusion plethysmography, using serotonin and nitroprusside as endothelium-dependent and -independent vasodilators. In vitro, we investigated the effect of 5-MTHF on NO production by recombinant endothelial NO synthase (eNOS) by use of [3H]arginine to [3H]citrulline conversion. We also studied the effects of 5-MTHF on superoxide generation by eNOS and xanthine oxidase (XO) by use of lucigenin chemiluminescence. The impaired endothelium-dependent vasodilation in FH (63% versus 90% in control subjects) could be reversed by coinfusion of 5-MTHF (117% vasodilation), whereas 5-MTHF had no significant effect on endothelium-dependent vasodilation in control subjects. 5-MTHF did not influence basal forearm vasomotion or endothelium-independent vasodilation. 5-MTHF had no direct effect on in vitro NO production by eNOS. However, we did observe a dose-dependent reduction in both eNOS- and XO-induced superoxide generation.


These results show that the active form of folic acid restores in vivo endothelial function in FH. It is suggested from our in vitro experiments that this effect is due to reduced catabolism of NO.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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