Peroxynitrite and vascular endothelial dysfunction in diabetes mellitus

Endothelium. Mar-Apr 2004;11(2):89-97. doi: 10.1080/10623320490482619.


Macro and microvascular diseases are the principal causes of morbidity and mortality in patients with type I and II diabetes mellitus. Growing evidence implicates reactive nitrogen species (RNS), such as peroxynitrite (ONOO-), derived from nitric oxide (NO) and superoxide anion (O2*-), are important in diabetes. The mechanisms by which diabetes increases RNS, and those by which RNS modifies vascular function, are poorly understood. The authors recently discovered that physiologically relevant concentrations of ONOO- oxidize the zinc thiolate center in endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS). In active eNOS dimers, a tetracoordinated zinc ion is held by four thiols, two from each 135-kDa monomer. Because it remains partially positively charged, the zinc thiolate center is subject to attack by the ONOO-. This oxidant disrupts the zinc thiolate center, releasing zinc, and oxidizing the thiols. Upon thiol reduction, eNOS dimers dissociate into monomers. This modification of eNOS results in reduced NO bioactivity and enhanced endothelial O2*- production, which reacts with NO, further generating ONOO- (eNOS uncoupling). In addition, the authors' studies also demonstrate that low concentrations of ONOO- selectively nitrate and inactivate prostacyclin synthase (PGIS), which not only eliminates the vasodilatory, growth-inhibiting, antithrombotic, and antiadhesive effects of prostacyclin (PGI2), but also increases release of the potent vasoconstrictor, prothrombotic, growth- and adhesion-promoting agents, prostaglandin H2 (PGH2) and thromboxane A2 (TxA2). In diabetic mice and rats, eNOS is uncoupled resulting in an increased tyrosine nitration of PGIS. The authors' studies indicate that in diabetes the synthetic enzymes of the two major endogenous vasodilators undergo oxidative inactivation by different mechanisms, which are, however, tightly interdependent.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diabetes Mellitus / enzymology
  • Diabetes Mellitus / metabolism*
  • Endothelium, Vascular / enzymology*
  • Endothelium, Vascular / physiopathology
  • Epoprostenol / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / chemistry
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / metabolism*
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Peroxynitrous Acid / chemistry
  • Peroxynitrous Acid / metabolism*
  • Peroxynitrous Acid / pharmacology
  • Tyrosine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Tyrosine / metabolism


  • Peroxynitrous Acid
  • 3-nitrotyrosine
  • Tyrosine
  • Epoprostenol
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase