Endothelial dysfunction defined as the impaired ability of vascular endothelium to stimulate vasodilation plays a key role in the development of atherosclerosis and in various pathological conditions which predispose to atherosclerosis, such as hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, hyperhomocyst (e) inemia and chronic renal failure. The major cause of the endothelial dysfunction is decreased bioavailability of nitric oxide (NO), a potent biological vasodi-lator produced in vascular endothelium from L-arginine by the endothelial NO synthase (eNOS). In vascular diseases, the bioavailability of NO can be impaired by various mechanisms, including decreased NO production by eNOS, and / or enhanced NO breakdown due to increased oxidative stress. The deactivation of eNOS is often associated with elevated plasma levels of its endogenous inhibitor, NG NG-dimethyl-L-arginine (ADMA). In hypercholesterolemia, a systemic deficit of NO may also increase the levels of low density lipoproteins (LD L) by modulating its synthesis and metabolism by the liver, as suggested by recent in vivo and in vitro studies using organic NO donors. Therapeutic strategies aiming to reduce the risk of vascular diseases by increasing bioavailability of NO continue to be developed. Cholesterol-lowering drugs, statins, have been shown to improve endothelial function in patients with hypercholesterolemia and atherosclerosis. Promising results were also obtained in some, but not all, vascular diseases after treatment with antioxidant vitamins (C and E) and after administration of eNOS substrate, L-arginine, or its cofactor, tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4). Novel strategies, which may produce beneficial changes in the vascular endothelium, include the use of natural extracts from plant foods rich in phytochemicals.
Keywords: Nitric Oxide Therapies, Dimethylarginine dimethylaminohydrolases, Tetrahydrobiopterin, L-homocysteine, Low density lipoprotein, Nitroarginine, Sodium nitroprusside, Triglyceride-rich lipoproteins