Regulation of the Inducible L-Arginine-Nitric Oxide Pathway by Oxidative Stress and Statins
Costa, Maria Alexandra Barata de Vasconcelos Nunes
Oxidative stress (OS) plays a critical role in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis potentially through interaction with nitric oxide (NO) generated by the inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) pathway. Although considerable literature supports a pro-atherogenic role for iNOS-induced NO, recent evidence suggest an anti-atherogenic property for this enzyme where iNOS-induced NO attenuates atherosclerotic lesions after immune injury, enhancing endothelial integrity, survival, protecting against OS-induced apoptosis and necrosis. We therefore hypothesize that iNOS may have a cardio-protective role in the atherosclerotic vessel and that under conditions of OS, expression and function of this enzyme may be impaired, thus contributing to the deleterious consequences of OS. Experiments have therefore been conducted to establish whether pro-oxidants regulate iNOS expression/function in rat cultured aortic smooth muscle cells (RASMCs). These cells were induced for 24 hours with LPS and IFN-γ to mimic inflammatory conditions. Oxidative stress inducers may modulate iNOS-induced NO production through alteration of the expression and/or function of the inducible L-arginine-NO pathway. We examined the effects of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), antimycin A and diethyl maleate (DEM) on this pathway in vascular smooth muscle cells. H2O2 had little effect on NO production or L-arginine transport while antimycin A and DEM independently caused a concentration dependent inhibition of both processes. Only DEM induced hemeoxygenase-1 (HO-1) expression, monitored by western blotting as a marker of OS. The effects of statins on NO synthesis and L-arginine transport in the presence and absence of OS were also investigated. The benefits of statins therapy in cardiovascular medicine are ascribed in part to their lipid-lowering effect by inhibiting 3-hydroxy-3-methoxyglutaryl coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase, the rate limiting enzyme for cholesterol synthesis. However, statins may possess anti-inflammatory properties and are able to improve endothelial function, stabilize atherosclerotic plaque, and inhibit platelet aggregation, vascular smooth muscle cells proliferation and vessel wall inflammation. These effects may be exerted through novel actions of statins that include interaction with specific signalling pathways in cells which may be associated with the induction of iNOS and/or cationic amino acid transporters (CATs). Thus, we have extended our investigations to include an examination of the effects of statins on both iNOS and CAT function and expression under control conditions and following exposure of cells to OS. Atorvastatin caused a bell shaped response on NO production and iNOS expression and also enhanced L-arginine transport but in a non-concentration dependent manner. Simvastatin only affected NO synthesis without altering transporter activity. Pravastatin was without effect on either system. Further studies demonstrated that that atorvastatin was able to reverse the effects of antimycin A and DEM but only on NO production. These findings confirm that the inducible L-arginine-NO pathway can be downregulated by pro-oxidants. This mechanism may therefore contribute to the deleterious effects observed in disease states associated with OS. Moreover, statins (in particular atorvastatin) appear to be effective in reversing the inhibition of NO production caused by inducers of OS. This, together with the fact that atorvastatin and simvastatin can potentiate iNOS-induced NO production and indeed L-arginine transport (with atorvastatin), highlights a potential novel mechanism through which the cardio-protective actions of these compounds could be mediated.