Introduction: Taurine is a sulfur-containing amino acid that exerts protective effects on vascular function and structure in several models of cardiovascular diseases through its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Early protein malnutrition reprograms the cardiovascular system and is linked to hypertension in adulthood. This study assessed the effects of taurine supplementation in vascular alterations induced by protein restriction in post-weaning rats.
Methods and results: Weaned male Wistar rats were fed normal- (12%, NP) or low-protein (6%, LP) diets for 90 days. Half of the NP and LP rats concomitantly received 2.5% taurine supplementation in the drinking water (NPT and LPT, respectively). LP rats showed elevated systolic, diastolic and mean arterial blood pressure versus NP rats; taurine supplementation partially prevented this increase. There was a reduced relaxation response to acetylcholine in isolated thoracic aortic rings from the LP group that was reversed by superoxide dismutase (SOD) or apocynin incubation. Protein expression of p47phox NADPH oxidase subunit was enhanced, whereas extracellular (EC)-SOD and endothelial nitric oxide synthase phosphorylation at Ser 1177 (p-eNOS) were reduced in aortas from LP rats. Furthermore, ROS production was enhanced while acetylcholine-induced NO release was reduced in aortas from the LP group. Taurine supplementation improved the relaxation response to acetylcholine and eNOS-derived NO production, increased EC-SOD and p-eNOS protein expression, as well as reduced ROS generation and p47phox expression in the aortas from LPT rats. LP rats showed an increased aortic wall/lumen ratio and taurine prevented this remodeling through a reduction in wall media thickness.
Conclusion: Our data indicate a protective role of taurine supplementation on the high blood pressure, endothelial dysfunction and vascular remodeling induced by post-weaning protein restriction. The beneficial vascular effect of taurine was associated with restoration of vascular redox homeostasis and improvement of NO bioavailability.