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Circulation. 1998 Jun 30;97(25):2494-8.

Reduced endothelial nitric oxide synthase expression and production in human atherosclerosis.

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Cardiovascular Research, Institute of Physiology, University of Zürich, Switzerland.



NO regulates vascular tone and structure, platelets, and monocytes. NO is synthesized by endothelial NO synthase (eNOS). Endothelial dysfunction occurs in atherosclerosis.


With a porphyrinic microsensor, NO release was measured in atherosclerotic human carotid arteries and normal mammary arteries obtained during surgery. eNOS protein expression was analyzed by immunohistochemistry. In normal arteries, the initial rate of NO release after stimulation with calcium ionophore A23187 (10 micromol/L) was 0.42+/-0.05 (micromol/L)/s (n=10). In contrast, the initial rate of NO release was markedly reduced in atherosclerotic segments, to 0.08+/-0.04 (micromol/L)/s (n=10, P<0.0001). NO peak concentration in normal arteries was 0.9+/-0.09 micromol/L (n=10) and in atherosclerotic segments, 0.1+/-0.03 micromol/L (n=10, P<0.0001). Reduced NO release in atherosclerotic segments was accompanied by marked reduction of immunoreactive eNOS in luminal endothelial cells, although specific endothelial cell markers (CD31) were present (n=13). Endothelial cells of vasa vasorum of atherosclerotic segments, however, remained positive for eNOS, as was the endothelium of normal arteries.


In clinically relevant human atherosclerosis, eNOS protein expression and NO release are markedly reduced. This may be involved in the progression of atherosclerosis.

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