Comprehensive arginine metabolomics and peripheral vasodilatory capacity in rheumatoid arthritis: A monocentric cross-sectional study

Microvasc Res. 2020 Sep;131:104038. doi: 10.1016/j.mvr.2020.104038. Epub 2020 Jul 2.


Background: The relationship between plasma arginine metabolites influencing vascular homeostasis and peripheral vasodilatory capacity in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients is not known.

Methods: l-arginine (Arg), monomethyl-l-arginine (MMA), l-homoarginine (hArg), asymmetric dimethyl-l-arginine (ADMA), symmetric dimethyl-l-arginine, and l-citrulline (Cit) were measured by liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) in 164 RA patients and 100 age- and sex-matched healthy controls without previous cardiovascular events. Log-transformed reactive hyperemia index (Ln-RHI) evaluated by flow-mediated pulse amplitude tonometry (PAT, EndoPAT2000 device) was assessed as surrogate measure of peripheral vasodilatory capacity in RA patients. Ln-RHI values <0.51 indicated peripheral endothelial dysfunction (ED). The relationship between plasma arginine metabolite concentrations, RA descriptors and peripheral vasodilatory capacity was evaluated by bivariate correlation and regression analyses.

Results: Plasma ADMA concentrations were significantly higher, and plasma hArg concentrations significantly lower, in RA patients than in controls (0.53 ± 0.09 vs 0.465 ± 0.07 μmol/L and 1.50 ± 0.60 vs 1.924 ± 0.78 μmol/L, respectively; p < 0.001 for both comparisons). Bivariate correlation analysis demonstrated no significant correlation between arginine metabolites and disease descriptors. In regression analysis in RA patients, higher plasma ADMA concentrations were independently associated with presence of ED [OR(95% CI) = 77.3(1.478-4050.005), p = 0.031] and lower Ln-RHI [B coefficient(95% CI) = -0.57(-1.09 to -0.05), p = 0.032].

Conclusions: ADMA was significantly, albeit weakly, associated with impaired microcirculatory vasodilatory capacity and peripheral endothelial dysfunction in RA. This suggests an important pathophysiological role of this metabolite in the vascular alterations observed in this patient group.

Trial registration: NCT02341066.

Keywords: ADMA; Endothelial dysfunction; Flow-mediated pulse amplitude tonometry; Rheumatoid arthritis; SDMA; l-Homoarginine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Arginine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Arginine / blood
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / blood*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / diagnosis
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / physiopathology*
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Citrulline / blood
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Fingers / blood supply*
  • Homoarginine / blood
  • Humans
  • Italy
  • Male
  • Metabolomics*
  • Middle Aged
  • Vasodilation*


  • Biomarkers
  • Homoarginine
  • Citrulline
  • symmetric dimethylarginine
  • N,N-dimethylarginine
  • Arginine

Associated data