With the present studies we sought to determine how treatment with nitroglycerin (NTG) affects endothelial function, oxidative stress and nitric oxide (NO)-downstream signaling in Watanabe heritable hyperlipidemic rabbits (WHHL).
In vitro experiments have demonstrated potent antiatherosclerotic effects of NO suggesting that treatment with NO-donors such as NTG could compensate for the diminished availability of endothelial NO. Nitric oxide may, however, not only be scavenged by reaction with endothelium-derived superoxide but also form the potent oxidant and inhibitor of vascular function, peroxynitrite (ONOO-).
Watanabe heritable hyperlipidemic rabbits were treated for three days with NTG patches. Normolipidemic New Zealand White rabbits (NZWR) served as controls. Endothelial function was assessed ex vivo with organ chamber experiments and vascular superoxide was quantified using lucigenin (5 and 250 μM) and CLA-enhanced chemiluminescence. Vascular ONOO- formation was determined using nitrotyrosine antibodies. The activity of the cGMP-dependent kinase (cGK-I) was assessed by determining the phosphorylation of vasodilator-stimulated phosphoprotein VASP (P-VASP).
Nitroglycerin treatment caused endothelial dysfunction in NZWR and WHHL, associated with an increase in superoxide and ONOO- production and a substantial drop in cGK-I activity. In vivo NTG-treatment decreased lipophilic antioxidants (α- and β-carotene) in NZWR and WHHL. Treatment of NZWR with NTG also decreased plasma extracellular superoxide dismutase (EC-SOD)-activity.
Nitroglycerin treatment of WHHL with exogenous NO worsens rather than improves endothelial dysfunction secondary to increased formation of superoxide and/or peroxynitrite leading to decreased cGK-I activity. The decrease in plasma levels of α- and β-carotene may be at least in part due to a decrease in EC-SOD activity.