L-arginine in cardiovascular disease: dream or reality?
Tousoulis D., Antoniades C., Tentolouris C., Goumas G., Stefanadis C., Toutouzas P.
L-arginine is the substrate for endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS), and the precursor for the synthesis of nitric oxide (NO). This amino acid exerts a number of actions in the cardiovascular system, mainly through the production of NO. However, it also has a number of NO-independent properties, such as the ability to regulate blood and intracellular pH and the effect on the depolarization of endothelial cell membranes. It also has antihypertensive and antioxidant properties, it influences blood viscosity and the coagulation/fibrinolysis system, and it affects the metabolism of glucose, lipids and proteins. L-arginine influences a number of atherosclerosis risk factors such as hypercholesterolemia, hypertension and smoking, improving endothelial function in these patients. However, it does not affect endothelial function in patients with diabetes mellitus. The role of L-arginine in coronary artery disease is still controversial, but it seems that oral or parenteral administration of this amino acid restores endothelial function in the brachial artery and improves coronary microcirculation. The role of L-arginine in heart failure is currently under investigation, and the first results are rather hopeful. In conclusion, L-arginine seems to provide a hopeful prospect for the treatment of cardiovascular diseases. However, more data derived from large-scale prospective studies evaluating the effects of long-term treatment with L-arginine are needed.