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Research Article

Tetrahydrobiopterin restores endothelial function in hypercholesterolemia.

E Stroes, J Kastelein, F Cosentino, W Erkelens, R Wever, H Koomans, T Lüscher and T Rabelink

Department of Nephrology, University Hospital Utrecht, The Netherlands.

Published January 1, 1997

In hypercholesterolemia, impaired nitric oxide activity has been associated with increased nitric oxide degradation by oxygen radicals. Deficiency of tetrahydrobiopterin, an essential cofactor of nitric oxide synthase, causes both impaired nitric oxide activity and increased oxygen radical formation. In this study we tested whether tetrahydrobiopterin deficiency contributes to the decreased nitric oxide activity observed in hypercholesterolemic patients. Therefore, L-mono-methyl-arginine to inhibit basal nitric oxide activity, serotonin to stimulate nitric oxide activity, and nitroprusside as endothelium-independent vasodilator were infused in the brachial artery of 13 patients with familial hypercholesterolemia and 13 matched controls. The infusions were repeated during coinfusion of L-arginine (200 microg/kg/min), tetrahydrobiopterin (500 microg/min), or the combination of both compounds. Forearm vasomotion was assessed using forearm venous occlusion plethysmography and expressed as ratio of blood flow between measurement and control arm (M/C ratio). Tetrahydrobiopterin infusion alone did not alter M/C ratio. Both the attenuated L-mono-methyl-arginine-induced vasoconstriction as well as the impaired serotonin-induced vasodilation were restored in patients during tetrahydrobiopterin infusion. Tetrahydrobiopterin had no effect in controls. In conclusion, this study demonstrates restoration of endothelial dysfunction by tetrahydrobiopterin suppletion in hypercholesterolemic patients.