Serum asymmetric dimethylarginine and arginine levels predict microvascular and macrovascular complications in type 2 diabetes mellitus

Diabetes Metab Res Rev. 2017 Feb;33(2). doi: 10.1002/dmrr.2836. Epub 2016 Oct 5.


Background: Increased oxidative stress in diabetes increases nitric oxide (NO) oxidation and low l-arginine (Arg) could further reduce NO and impair vascular function, thereby accelerating, in the long run, vascular complications. We therefore measured Arg and asymmetric dimethylarginine (ADMA) levels in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) and healthy controls. Additionally, we observed the diabetic individuals over time to see if Arg and asymmetric dimethylarginine predicted T2DM complications.

Methods: We examined baseline serum Arg and ADMA levels in a cohort of 105 participants with type 2 diabetes and compared them with an age- and weight-matched nondiabetic group of 137 individuals who served as a reference population. Additionally, we assessed whether Arg and/or ADMA predicted macrovascular and microvascular complications over 6 years of follow-up.

Results: Serum Arg was lower in individuals with T2DM than in controls (64 ± 28 vs 75 ± 31 μmol/L; P = .009) and inversely related to hemoglobin A1c (r = -0.2; P = .002). Over follow-up, we observed that participants with T2DM in the lowest quartile of Arg had increased risk for the subsequent evolution of nephropathy, peripheral neuropathy, and composite microvascular complications (odds ratio [OR] = 5.5; 95% confidence interval [CI] -1.9 to 16; P = .002). The highest ADMA quartile was associated with increased risk for both microvascular (OR = 4.5; 95% CI -1.4 to 14.1; P = .009) and 6.5-year incident macrovascular complications (OR = 8.3; 95% CI 1.9-35.5; P = .004).

Conclusion: l-Arginine levels are lower in individuals with T2DM than in matched controls. Both low Arg and high ADMA, independent of each other and adjusted for classical risk factors, predict the incidence of microvascular complications.

Keywords: diabetes complications; metabolic syndrome; obesity.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Arginine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Arginine / blood*
  • Biomarkers / blood*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / blood
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diabetes Complications / blood
  • Diabetes Complications / diagnosis*
  • Diabetes Complications / etiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Prognosis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers
  • N,N-dimethylarginine
  • Arginine