Objective: To determine the relationship between vascular function and the inflammatory response in systemic sclerosis (SSc), and to investigate whether production of endothelial-derived nitric oxide (NO) is disturbed in this disease.
Methods: We measured plasma nitrate, urinary excretion of both nitrate and cGMP, and soluble adhesion molecules of endothelial origin in patients with SSc and in age- and sex-matched controls and compared these levels between groups. Additionally, we performed correlation analysis to determine how these variables were related to one another. Plasma nitrate and 24-hour-urinary excretion of nitrate in patients and controls were measured after a 72-hour nitrate-free-diet, using a gas chromatography/mass spectrometric method. Soluble adhesion molecules intercellular adhesion molecule 1 (sICAM-1), vascular cell adhesion molecule 1 (sVCAM-1), and E-selectin and cytokines were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. The expression of E-selectin was further investigated in skin biopsy specimens by immunoperoxidase staining, and the presence of inducible NO synthase by immunoblotting.
Results: Plasma nitrate and 24-hour-urinary-excretion of cGMP were significantly elevated in patients compared with controls, while 24-hour-urinary-excretion of nitrate tended to be elevated in SSc patients. Levels of sICAM-1, sVCAM-1, and sE-selectin were significantly elevated in the patients. Levels of plasma nitrate in the patients correlated significantly with levels of sVCAM-1 (P = 0.020) and sE-selectin (P = 0.018) and approached a significant correlation with sICAM-1 (P = 0.055), suggesting that activated endothelial cells may produce plasma nitrate.
Conclusion: NO synthesis is elevated in SSc patients, and the activated endothelial cell is a likely site of its production.