L-arginine and Arginase Products Potentiate Dexmedetomidine-induced Contractions in the Rat Aorta

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The α2-adrenergic sedative/anesthetic agent dexmedetomidine exerts biphasic effects on isolated arteries, causing endothelium-dependent relaxations at concentrations at or below 30 nM, followed by contractions at higher concentrations. L-arginine is a common substrate of endothelial nitric oxide synthase and arginases. This study was designed to investigate the role of L-arginine in modulating the overall vascular response to dexmedetomidine.


Isometric tension was measured in isolated aortic rings of Sprague Dawley rats. Cumulative concentrations of dexmedetomidine (10 nM to 10 μM) were added to quiescent rings (with and without endothelium) after previous incubation with vehicle, Nω-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester hydrochloride (L-NAME; nitric oxide synthase inhibitor), prazosin (α1-adrenergic antagonist), rauwolscine (α2-adrenergic antagonist), L-arginine, (S)-(2-boronethyl)-L-cysteine hydrochloride (arginase inhibitor), NG-hydroxy-L-arginine (arginase inhibitor), urea and/or ornithine. In some preparations, immunofluorescent staining, immunoblotting, or measurement of urea content were performed.


Dexmedetomidine did not contract control rings with endothelium but evoked concentration-dependent increases in tension in such rings treated with L-NAME (Emax 50 ± 4%) or after endothelium-removal (Emax 74 ± 5%; N = 7 to 12). Exogenous L-arginine augmented the dexmedetomidine-induced contractions in the presence of L-NAME (Emax 75 ± 3%). This potentiation was abolished by (S)-(2-boronethyl)-L-cysteine hydrochloride (Emax 16 ± 4%) and NG-hydroxy-L-arginine (Emax 18 ± 4%). Either urea or ornithine, the downstream arginase products, had a similar potentiating effect as L-arginine. Immunoassay measurements demonstrated an upregulation of arginase I by L-arginine treatment in the presence of L-NAME (N = 4).


These results suggest that when vascular nitric oxide homeostasis is impaired, the potentiation of the vasoconstrictor effect of dexmedetomidine by L-arginine depends on arginase activity and the production of urea and ornithine.

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