Inflammation is associated with a reduced availability of NO in the vasculature. We investigated the possible involvement of altered levels of the substrate (arginine) and the inhibitor [ADMA (asymmetric ω-NG,NG-dimethylarginine)] of NOS (NO synthase). Plasma concentrations of arginine and ADMA, the inflammatory markers CRP (C-reactive protein) and MPO (myeloperoxidase), and oxLDL [oxidized LDL (low-density lipoprotein)] were measured in 369 male and 377 female participants (aged 50–87 years) of a population-based cohort study. The arginine/ADMA ratio decreased significantly across increasing tertiles of CRP and MPO. These negative associations remained significant in a linear regression model with both MPO (P=0.002) and CRP (P<0.001) as independent variables and adjusted for age, sex and cardiovascular risk factors. In a fully adjusted regression model, MPO was positively associated with ADMA {5.4 [95% CI (confidence interval), 1.3–9.4] nmol/l change of ADMA per S.D. increase in MPO; P=0.010}, whereas CRP was not (P=0.36). Conversely, in a fully adjusted model, CRP was negatively associated with arginine [−2.8 (95% CI, −4.0 to −1.6) μmol/l arginine per S.D. of CRP; P<0.001], without a significant contribution of MPO (P=0.23). The relationship between MPO and ADMA became stronger with increasing levels of oxLDL (1.8, 5.2 and 8.7 nmol/l ADMA per S.D. of MPO for increasing tertiles of oxLDL), consistent with the ability of MPO to amplify oxidative stress. In contrast, the relationship between CRP and arginine was not modified by levels of oxLDL. In conclusion, an unfavourable NOS substrate/inhibitor ratio may contribute to the reduced NO bioavailability associated with inflammation.

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