Background: Several lines of evidence point to the dysfunction of the endothelial l-arginine-NO system in preeclampsia. We investigated the influence of dietary supplementation with l-arginine on blood pressure and biochemical measures of NO production in women with preeclampsia in prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled study.
Design: The 61 preeclamptic women on a standardized low nitrate diet received orally 3 g of l-arginine (n = 30) or placebo (n = 31) daily for 3 weeks as a supplement to standard therapy. The differences between the two groups in systolic (SBP), diastolic (DBP) and mean arterial blood pressures (MAP) as well as in plasma levels of selected aminoacids, plasma concentrations of nitrates/nitrites (NOx) and in 24-h urine NOx excretion were determined.
Results: After 3 weeks of treatment, values of SBP, DPB and MAP were significantly lower in the group taking l-arginine as compared with the placebo group (SBP: 134.2 +/- 2.9 vs. 143.1 +/- 2.8; DBP: 81.6 +/- 1.7 vs. 86.5 +/- 0.9; MAP: 101.8 +/- 1.5 vs. 108.0 +/- 1.2 mmHg, P < 0.01). Importantly, treatment with exogenous l-arginine significantly elevated 24-h urinary excretion of NOx and mean plasma levels of l-citrulline. Exogenous l-arginine did not influence plasma concentrations of l-arginine, l-ornithine and methylated arginines (ADMA, SDMA, L-NMMA).
Conclusions: We conclude that in women with preeclampsia, prolonged dietary supplementation with l-arginine significantly decreased blood pressure through increased endothelial synthesis and/or bioavailability of NO. It is tempting to speculate that the supplementary treatment with l-arginine may represent a new, safe and efficient strategy to improve the function of the endothelium in preeclampsia.