Tetrahydrobiopterin improves endothelial function in patients with cystic fibrosis

Jin Hee Jeong, Nichole Lee, Matthew A. Tucker, Paula Rodriguez-Miguelez, Jacob Looney, Jeffrey Thomas, Casandra C. Derella, Ahmed Abdelrazik Elmarakby, Jacqueline B. Musall, Jennifer C Sullivan, Kathleen T McKie, Caralee Johnson Forseen, Gareth W. Davison, Ryan A. Harris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a genetic disorder associated with vascular endothelial dysfunction. Nitric oxide (NO) plays a major role in maintaining vascular function, and tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4) is a critical determinant of NO bioavailability. Thus the purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of oral administration of BH4 on endothelial function in patients with CF. Twenty-nine patients with CF (18 8 yr old) and 29 healthy matched controls were recruited. Patients with CF participated in a randomized trial where they received a 5 mg/kg dose of oral BH4 (BH4-5; n 17) or a 20 mg/kg dose of oral BH4 (BH4-20; n 12). On a separate visit, a subset of patients from each group was retested following a placebo (PLC; n 9). Brachial artery flow-mediated dilation (FMD) was used to evaluate vascular endothelial function, and a plasma sample was obtained before and 3 h after treatment. Cultured endothelial cells were treated with plasma to assess NO bioavailability. Baseline FMD was lower in patients compared with controls (5.7 3.4 vs. 8.4 3.5%, respectively, P 0.005). No change in FMD was observed following PLC or BH 4 -5 (FMD: 0.8 1.9% and 0.5 2.5%; P 0.273 and 0.132, respectively). Treatment with BH4-20, however, resulted in significant improvements in FMD (FMD: 1.1 1.4%) compared with BH4-5 (P 0.023) and PLC (P 0.017). Moreover, BH4-20 significantly decreased endothelial cell superoxide production and increased NO production. These data suggest that a single oral dose of BH 4 at 20 mg/kg improves vascular endothelial function in patients with CF, likely via increased endothelial NO synthase coupling. These findings support the hypothesis that loss of BH4 bioactivity contributes, in part, to endothelial dysfunction in patients with CF.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)60-66
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2019


  • BH4
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Dose-response
  • Flow-mediated dilation
  • Nitric oxide bioavailability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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