L-Arginine Depletion in Preeclampsia Orients Nitric Oxide Synthase Toward Oxidant Species

Marina Noris, Marta Todeschini, Paola Cassis, Fabio Pasta, Anna Cappellini, Samantha Bonazzola, Daniela Macconi, Raffaella Maucci, Francesca Porrati, Ariela Benigni, Claudio Picciolo, Giuseppe Remuzzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Less nitric oxide (NO)-dependent vasodilation and excess formation of reactive oxygen species could explain poor placenta perfusion in preeclampsia, but the pathways involved are unknown. We tested the hypothesis that reduced NO activity and increased oxidative stress in preeclamptic placenta is related to a low bioavailability of L-arginine. Placental endothelial NO synthase (ecNOS) expression (by immunoperoxidase) and activity (by diaphorase and [ 3H]L-citrulline formation) were comparable in normotensive pregnancy and in preeclampsia, whereas nitrotyrosine staining, a marker of peroxynitrite, was stronger in preeclamptic villi, confirming previously reported data. Oxidative tissue damage was documented in preeclamptic villi by strong 4-hydroxynonenal-lysine staining (by immunoperoxidase), which closely colocalized with nitrotyrosine. Concentration of the NO precursor L-arginine (by HPLC) in umbilical blood and in villous tissue was lower in preeclampsia than in normotensive pregnancy. This was not caused by a defective L-arginine transport, because gene expression of the CAT-1, 4F2hc, and LAT-1 cationic amino acid transporters (by real-time reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction [RT-PCR]) was normal. Instead, gene expression (by real-time RT-PCR) and protein tissue content (by immunoperoxidase and Western blot) of arginase II-the enzyme that degrades arginine to ornithine-were higher in preeclamptic villi than in normotensive pregnancy. These results provide a biochemical explanation for defective NO activity and increased oxidative stress in preeclamptic placenta. In normal placenta, adequate concentration of L-arginine orients ecNOS toward NO. In preeclampsia, a lower than normal L-arginine concentration caused by arginase II overexpression redirects ecNOS toward peroxynitrite.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)614-622
Number of pages9
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2004


  • Arginine
  • Nitric oxide synthase
  • Nitrites
  • Oxidative stress
  • Preeclampsia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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