Introduction: Asymmetrical dimethyl arginine (ADMA) is an endogenous non-selective inhibitor of nitric oxide synthase that may influence the severity of organ failure and the occurrence of shock secondary to an infectious insult. Levels may be genetically determined by a promoter polymorphism in a regulatory gene encoding dimethylarginine dimethylaminohydrolase II (DDAH II), which functions by metabolising ADMA to citrulline. The aim of this study was to examine the association between ADMA levels and the severity of organ failure and shock in severe sepsis and also to assess the influence of a promoter polymorphism in DDAH II on ADMA levels.
Methods: A prospective observational study was designed, and 47 intensive care unit (ICU) patients with severe sepsis and 10 healthy controls were enrolled. Serum ADMA and IL-6 were assayed on admission to the ICU and seven days later. Allelic variation for a polymorphism at position -449 in the DDAH II gene was assessed in each patient. Clinical and demographic details were also collected.
Results: On day 1 more ADMA was detectable in the ICU group than in the control group (p = 0.005). Levels subsequently increased during the first week in ICU (p = 0.001). ADMA levels were associated with vasopressor requirements on day one (p = 0.001). ADMA levels and Sequential Organ Failure Assessment scores were directly associated on day one (p = 0.0001) and day seven (p = 0.002). The degree of acidaemia and lactaemia was directly correlated with ADMA levels at both time points (p < 0.01). On day seven, IL-6 was directly correlated with ADMA levels (p = 0.006). The variant allele with G at position -449 in the DDAH II gene was associated with increased ADMA concentrations at both time points (p < 0.05).
Conclusion: Severity of organ failure, inflammation and presence of early shock in severe sepsis are associated with increased ADMA levels. ADMA concentrations may be influenced by a polymorphism in the DDAH II gene.