The role of nitric oxide in L-arginine-stimulated growth hormone release

J Endocrinol Invest. 1999;22(5 Suppl):89-93.


Nitric oxide (NO) exerts widespread and fundamental physiological effects. It is identical to the so-called endothelium-derived relaxing factor which regulates vascular tone. It has also been demonstrated to act as a neurotransmitter in both the peripheral and central nervous systems. NO is generated from L-arginine catalyzed by the NO synthases (NOS), of which two constitutive and one inducible form exist. NO stimulates the soluble guanylate cyclase which generates cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP), that is believed to mediate the effects of NO. Recently, however, it has also been shown that NO is generated non-enzymatically from both L- and D-arginine by reaction with peroxide. The role of this pathway in the neuroregulation of growth hormone (GH) secretion has not yet been investigated. In rats, NO stimulates secretion of GH-releasing hormone (GHRH) and thus increases secretion of GH. However, it has also been observed that GHRH, in turn, increases production of NO in somatotroph cells, which subsequently blunts GH secretion. In humans, L-arginine stimulates pituitary GH release, but the mechanism is not fully clarified. Most studies suggest that an inhibition of somatostatin secretion is responsible for the effect. Infusion of low doses of the NOS inhibitor N(G)-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester have been shown not to change L-arginine-stimulated GH secretion. The effect of the NO donor molsidomine has also been found to have no influence on GH secretion. We investigated whether intravenous infusion of the NOS inhibitor N(G)-monomethyl-L-arginine (L-NMMA) influenced L-arginine-stimulated GH secretion in healthy young men. All subjects were examined twice in random order. On both occasions L-arginine was infused intravenously. This treatment was accompanied by either: L-NMMA co-infused or a saline infusion. Plasma cGMP was unchanged and identical in the two treatment groups, and the urine cGMP/creatinine ratio increased identically during both examinations. GH secretion increased significantly during L-arginine infusion and was not influenced by co-infusion of L-NMMA. There is so far no evidence that L-arginine stimulates GH release via NO production. However, it remains to be elucidated whether the doses of different L-arginine inhibitors/NO donors used in the previous studies were insufficient.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arginine / pharmacology*
  • Central Nervous System / drug effects
  • Central Nervous System / metabolism
  • Human Growth Hormone / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Nitric Oxide / physiology*
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / metabolism
  • Secretory Rate / drug effects
  • Stimulation, Chemical
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Human Growth Hormone
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Arginine
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase