Enterosalivary nitrate metabolism and the microbiome: Intersection of microbial metabolism, nitric oxide and diet in cardiac and pulmonary vascular health

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Abstract

Recent insights into the bioactivation and signaling actions of inorganic, dietary nitrate and nitrite now suggest a critical role for the microbiome in the development of cardiac and pulmonary vascular diseases. Once thought to be the inert, end-products of endothelial-derived nitric oxide (NO) heme-oxidation, nitrate and nitrite are now considered major sources of exogenous NO that exhibit enhanced vasoactive signaling activity under conditions of hypoxia and stress. The bioavailability of nitrate and nitrite depend on the enzymatic reduction of nitrate to nitrite by a unique set of bacterial nitrate reductase enzymes possessed by specific bacterial populations in the mammalian mouth and gut. The pathogenesis of pulmonary hypertension (PH), obesity, hypertension and CVD are linked to defects in NO signaling, suggesting a role for commensal oral bacteria to shape the development of PH through the formation of nitrite, NO and other bioactive nitrogen oxides. Oral supplementation with inorganic nitrate or nitrate-containing foods exert pleiotropic, beneficial vascular effects in the setting of inflammation, endothelial dysfunction, ischemia-reperfusion injury and in pre-clinical models of PH, while traditional high-nitrate dietary patterns are associated with beneficial outcomes in hypertension, obesity and CVD. These observations highlight the potential of the microbiome in the development of novel nitrate- and nitrite-based therapeutics for PH, CVD and their risk factors.

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