Reactive nitrogen species, such as peroxynitrite, can nitrate tyrosine in proteins to form nitrotyrosine. Nitrotyrosine is metabolized to 3-nitro-4-hydroxyphenylacetic acid (NHPA), which is excreted in the urine. This has led to the notion that measurement of urinary NHPA may provide a time-integrated index of nitrotyrosine formation in vivo. However, it is not known whether NHPA is derived exclusively from metabolism of nitrotyrosine, or whether it can be formed by nitration of circulating para-hydroxyphenylacetic acid (PHPA), a metabolite of tyrosine. In the present study, we have developed a gas chromatography MS assay for NHPA and PHPA to determine whether or not NHPA can be formed directly by nitration of PHPA. Following the injection of nitrotyrosine, 0.5±0.16% of injected dose was recovered unchanged as nitrotyrosine, and 4.3±0.2% as NHPA in the urine. To determine whether or not NHPA could be formed by the nitration of PHPA, deuterium-labelled PHPA ([2H6]PHPA) was injected, and the formation of deuterated NHPA ([2H5]NHPA) was measured. Of the infused [2H6]PHPA, 78±2% was recovered in the urine unchanged, and approx. 0.23% was recovered as [2H5]NHPA. Since the plasma concentration of PHPA is markedly higher than free nitrotyrosine (approx. 400-fold), the nitration of high-circulating endogenous PHPA to form NHPA becomes very significant and accounts for the majority of NHPA excreted in urine. This is the first study to demonstrate that NHPA can be formed by nitration of PHPA in vivo, and that this is the major route for its formation.

Abbreviations used: GC, gas chromatography; LPS, lipopolysaccharide; NHPA, 3-nitro-4-hydroxyphenylacetic acid; [13C8]NHPA, [1,2,1′,2′,3′,4′,5′,6′-13C]NHPA; [2H5]NHPA, [2,2,2′,5′,6′-2H]NHPA; NICI, negative-ion chemical ionization; PHPA, para-hydroxyphenylacetic acid; [13C8]PHPA, [1,2,1′,2′,3′,4′,5′,6′-13C]PHPA; [2H6]PHPA, [2,2,2′,3′,5′,6′-2H]PHPA; RNS, reactive nitrogen species; TFA, trifluoroacetic acid; [13C9]tyrosine, [1,2,3,1′,2′,3′,4′,5′,6′-13C]tyrosine.

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