Boger RH. Bode-Boger SM. Brandes RP. Phivthong-ngam L. Bohme M. Nafe R. Mugge A. Frolich JC.
Institute of Clinical Pharmacology, Medical School, Hannover, Germany. Title
Dietary L-arginine reduces
the progression of atherosclerosis in cholesterol-fed rabbits: comparison with lovastatin.
Circulation. 96(4):1282-90, 1997 Aug 19. Abstract
BACKGROUND: We investigated whether L-arginine induces regression of preexisting atheromatous lesions and reversal of endothelial dysfunction in hypercholesterolemic rabbits, whether similar effects can be obtained by cholesterol-lowering therapy with lovastatin, and which mechanism leads to these effects. METHODS AND RESULTS: Rabbits were fed 1% cholesterol for 4 weeks and 0.5% cholesterol for an additional 12 weeks. Two groups of cholesterol-fed rabbits were treated with L-arginine (2.0% in drinking water) or lovastatin (10 mg/d) during weeks 5 through 16. Systemic nitric oxide (NO) formation was assessed as the urinary excretion rates of nitrate and cGMP in weekly intervals. Cholesterol feeding progressively reduced urinary nitrate excretion to approximately 40% of baseline (P<.05) and increased plasma concentrations of asymmetrical dimethylarginine (ADMA), an endogenous NO synthesis inhibitor. Dietary L-arginine reversed the reduction in plasma L-arginine/ADMA ratio and partly restored urinary excretion of nitrate and cGMP (each P<.05 vs cholesterol) but did not change plasma cholesterol levels. L-Arginine completely blocked the progression of carotid intimal plaques, reduced aortic intimal thickening, and preserved endothelium-dependent vasodilator function. Lovastatin treatment reduced plasma cholesterol by 32% but did not improve urinary nitrate or cGMP excretion or endothelium-dependent vasodilation. Lovastatin had a weaker inhibitory effect on carotid plaque formation and aortic intimal thickening than L-arginine. L-Arginine inhibited but lovastatin potentiated superoxide radical generation in the atherosclerotic vascular wall. CONCLUSIONS: Dietary L-arginine improves NO-dependent vasodilator function in cholesterol-fed rabbits and completely blocks the progression of plaques via restoration of NO synthase substrate availability and reduction of vascular oxidative stress. Lovastatin treatment has a weaker inhibitory effect on the progression of atherosclerosis and no effect on vascular NO elaboration, which may be due to its stimulatory effect on vascular superoxide radical generation.