Elevated ceramide levels contribute to the age-associated decline in vascular endothelial nitric oxide : pharmacologic administration of lipoic acid partially restores function Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/c534fs491

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  • The vascular endothelium is a single cell layer that lines the lumen of the entire vasculature. It is the site of synthesis of nitric oxide (NO), a vasodilatory compound synthesized by endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS). NO causes intracellular calcium sequestration of the vascular smooth muscle cells, relaxing and dilating the arteries. Age profoundly affects endothelium-dependent vasodilation, leading to specific losses of NO. We sought to determine what causes the age-specific loss of endothelial NO. This was accomplished by investigating whether there are differences in markers of eNOS post-translational regulation elements in the aortic endothelium of young (2-4 months; corresponding to an adolescent human adult) and old (32-34 months; corresponding to a 65-75 year-old human). F 344 x Brown Norway hybrid rats. Results show that maximal eNOS activity significantly declines with age (n=4;p≤0.05) though there was no change in eNOS protein levels in the aortic endothelium. Endothelial NOS exists in two distinct subcellular fractions. No alterations were detected in the soluble, inactive fraction while significantly less eNOS protein is detected in the active, plasma membrane fraction of the endothelium (n=4;p≤0.02). Endothelial NOS activation is also controlled by its phosphorylation state. In this work we demonstrate that free ceramides and ceramide-activated phosphatase (PP2A) activity are significantly elevated with age in the endothelium and correlate with specific alterations in eNOS phosphorylation status consistent with its inactivation. These changes were concomittent with an age-associated decline in endothelial glutathione (GSH) and increased sphingomyelinase activity which liberates ceramides from membrane sphingolipids. In previously published reports we demonstrated that the dithiol compound R-α-lipoic acid (LA) increased maximal NO synthesis in cultured endothelial cells and that LA improved age-associated loss of eNOS stimulatory phosphorylation in rats. Therefore, we administered pharmacologic doses of LA (40 mg/kg, i.p. over 24 h) to old rats to determine whether it restored NO-dependent vasomotor function. Results show that LA significantly increased endothelial GSH (p≤0.05 compared to saline controls), decreased sphingomyelinase activity and reversed the age-related increase in ceramide (p≤0.01) in old animals. Finally, LA significantly improved endothelium-dependent vasodilation, suggesting that it might be a good therapeutic agent for age-related vascular endothelial dysfunction.
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