1. Microalbuminuria is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease in patients with insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, and may be a marker of microvascular dysfunction including endothelial damage. The purpose of this study was to determine whether vasoconstrictor responses to NG-monomethyl-L-arginine, an inhibitor of endothelium-derived relaxing factor/nitric oxide biosynthesis, differ between healthy subjects and insulin-dependent patients with or without microalbuminuria.

2. Twenty-eight insulin-dependent diabetic patients (14 with normal albumin excretion, 14 with microalbuminuria) were studied under euglycaemic conditions, together with 14 healthy control subjects. Forearm vascular responses to brachial artery infusions of NG-monomethyl-L-arginine, sodium nitroprusside (an endothelium-independent nitrovasodilator) and carbachol (an endothelium-dependent vasodilator) were determined by strain gauge plethysmography.

3. Basal blood flow and vasodilator responses were similar in each group. NG-Monomethyl-L-arginine reduced blood flow by 41.3 + 2.3% (mean + SEM) in healthy control subjects, 34.0 + 3.4% in diabetic patients without microalbuminuria and 29.2 + 2.0% in diabetic patients with microalbuminuria. Diabetic patients differed from healthy subjects (P = 0.005), due to a difference between control subjects and microalbuminuric diabetic patients (P <0.001). NG-Monomethyl-L-arginine did not influence nitroprusside responses but reduced carbachol responses in control subjects and normoalbuminuric diabetic patients but not in microalbuminuric diabetic patients.

4. These results provide evidence of abnormal endothelium-derived relaxing factor/nitric oxide biosynthesis in insulin-dependent diabetic patients with microalbuminuria.

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