Role of L-arginine in the vascular actions and development of tolerance to nitroglycerin

Gamal Abou-Mohamed, Wayne H. Kaesemeyer, Ruth B. Caldwell, Robert W. Caldwell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


1. The goal of this work was to test the role of nitric oxide synthase (NOS) and its substrate L-arginine in development of tolerance to nitroglycerin's (GTN) vasodilator actions. 2. GTN's effects on NOS activity and NO formation were tested in cultured bovine aortic endothelial cells (BAECs). The arginine to citrulline conversion assay showed that GTN stimulated NOS basal activity in BAECs by ~ 40%, comparable with acetylcholine (ACh)-treated controls. Both effects were blocked by L-NMMA. Photometric assays showed that both GTN and ACh-stimulated NO formation. Both effects were potentiated by L-arginine and inhibited by L-NAME. L-NAME inhibited ACh responses ~ 80% compared with ~ 40% for GTN responses. 3. The aortic ring assay showed that 2 h pretreatment with GTN caused substantial tolerance to GTN's vasodilating effects as evidenced by a 38 fold rightward shift of the concentration-relaxation curve. In contrast to D-arginine, addition of L-arginine substantially inhibited this effect, reducing the rightward shift to 4.4 fold of control values. GTN tolerance was associated with a 40% reduction in L-arginine tissue levels. GTN had a biphasic effect on BAEC uptake of L-arginine, stimulating uptake at 5 and 15 min, and suppressing uptake after 1 and 4 h. 4. In summary, acute GTN treatment stimulates endothelial NOS activity in producing NO and increases cellular uptake of L-arginine. Prolonged GTN exposure reduces GTN's vasodilator actions, decreases L-arginine tissue levels and depresses BAECs uptake of L-arginine. Supplementation of L-arginine reduces development of GTN tolerance. These data indicate that GTN tolerance depends in part on activation of the NOS pathway.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)211-218
Number of pages8
JournalBritish Journal of Pharmacology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2000


  • L-arginine
  • Nitric oxide synthase
  • Nitroglycerin
  • Tolerance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology


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