The L-arginine/NO pathway and homoarginine are altered in Duchenne muscular dystrophy and improved by glucocorticoids

Amino Acids. 2015 Sep;47(9):1853-63. doi: 10.1007/s00726-015-2018-x. Epub 2015 Jun 12.


The L-arginine/nitric oxide (L-Arg/NO) pathway regulates endothelial function and may play an important role in the pathogenesis of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Yet, this pathway is poorly investigated in children suffering from DMD. Endothelial dysfunction can affect the perfusion of contracting muscles, thus leading to ischemia and hypoxia. In the present study, we tested the hypothesis that reduced NO production due to elevated synthesis of N (G),N (G)-dimethyl-L-arginine (asymmetric dimethylarginine, ADMA), an endogenous inhibitor of NO synthesis, is a possible pathophysiological mechanism for progressive intramuscular muscle ischemia and disturbed endothelial function in children with DMD. Given the possible antagonistic action of homoarginine (hArg) on ADMA, we also analyzed this amino acid. We investigated 55 male patients with DMD and 54 healthy male controls (HC; aged 11.9 ± 4.8 vs. 11.1 ± 4.9 years, mean ± SD). Urinary creatinine and metabolites of the L-Arg/NO pathway were measured in plasma and urine by GC-MS or GC-MS/MS. Urine levels of ADMA and its major urinary metabolite dimethylamine (DMA), nitrite and nitrate (P < 0.001 for all) and hArg (P = 0.002) were significantly higher in DMD patients compared to HC, while the urinary DMA/ADMA molar ratio was lower (P = 0.002). In plasma, nitrate (P < 0.001), hArg (P = 0.002) and the hArg/ADMA ratio (P < 0.001) were lower in DMD than in HC. In plasma, ADMA (631 ± 119 vs. 595 ± 129 nM, P = 0.149), arginine and nitrite did not differ between DMD and HC. In DMD, positive correlations between ADMA, DMA or nitrate excretion and the stage of disease (according to Vignos and Thompson) were found. In DMD patients on steroid medication, lower concentrations of ADMA in plasma, and of DMA, ADMA, nitrate and hArg in urine were observed compared to non-treated patients. The L-Arg/NO pathway is impaired in DMD patients, with the disease progression being clinically negatively correlated with the extent of impairment. One of the underlying mechanisms in DMD may involve insufficient antagonism of ADMA by hArg. Steroids, but not creatine supplementation, seems to improve the L-Arg/NO pathway in DMD.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Arginine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Arginine / blood
  • Arginine / urine
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Glucocorticoids / administration & dosage*
  • Homoarginine* / blood
  • Homoarginine* / urine
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism*
  • Muscular Dystrophy, Duchenne* / blood
  • Muscular Dystrophy, Duchenne* / drug therapy
  • Muscular Dystrophy, Duchenne* / urine
  • Nitric Oxide* / blood
  • Nitric Oxide* / urine
  • Pilot Projects


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Homoarginine
  • Nitric Oxide
  • N,N-dimethylarginine
  • Arginine