Background: The potential antiatherosclerotic actions of NO were investigated in four groups of mice (n=10 per group) lacking functional LDL receptor genes, an animal model of familial hypercholesterolemia. Group 1 was fed a regular chow diet. Groups 2 through 4 were fed a 1.25% high-cholesterol diet. In addition, group 3 received supplemental L-arginine and group 4 received L-arginine and N(ω)-nitro-L-arginine (L-NA), an inhibitor of NO synthase (NOS). Methods and Results: Animals were killed at 6 months; aortas were stained with oil red O for planimetry and with antibodies against constitutive and inducible NOSs. Plasma cholesterol was markedly increased in the animals receiving the high-cholesterol diet. Xanthomas appeared in all mice fed the high-cholesterol diet alone but not in those receiving L- arginine. Aortic atherosclerosis was present in all mice on the high- cholesterol diet. The mean atherosclerotic lesion area was reduced significantly (P<.01) in the cholesterol-fed mice given L-arginine compared with those receiving the high-cholesterol diet alone. The mean atherosclerotic lesion area was significantly larger (P<.01) in cholesterol- fed mice receiving L-arginine + L-NA than in those on the high-cholesterol diet alone. Within the atherosclerotic plaques, endothelial cells immunoreacted for endothelial cell NOS; macrophages, foam cells, and smooth muscle cells immunostained strongly for inducible NOS and nitrotyrosine residues. Conclusions: The data indicate that L-arginine prevents xanthoma formation and reduces atherosclerosis in LDL receptor knockout mice fed a high-cholesterol diet. The abrogation of the beneficial effects of L- arginine by L-NA suggests that the anti-atherosclerotic actions of L-arginine are mediated by NOS. The data suggest that L-arginine may be beneficial in familial hypercholesterolemia.
- nitric oxide synthase
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
- Physiology (medical)