Effects of acute administration of trimethylamine N-oxide on endothelial function: a translational study

Sci Rep. 2022 May 23;12(1):8664. doi: 10.1038/s41598-022-12720-5.


Elevated circulating levels of nutrient-derived trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) have been associated with the onset and progression of cardiovascular disease by promoting athero-thrombosis. However, in conditions like bariatric surgery (Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, RYGB), stable increases of plasma TMAO are associated with improved endothelial function and reduced cardiovascular morbidity and mortality, thus questioning whether a mechanistic relationship between TMAO and endothelial dysfunction exists. Herein, we translationally assessed the effects of acute TMAO exposure on endothelial dysfunction, thrombosis and stroke. After RYGB, fasting circulating levels of TMAO increased in patients and obese rats, in parallel with an improved gluco-lipid profile and higher circulating bile acids. The latter enhanced FXR-dependent signalling in rat livers, which may lead to higher TMAO synthesis post RYGB. In lean rats, acute TMAO injection (7 mg kg-1) 1.5-h before sacrifice and ex-vivo 30-min incubation of thoracic aortas with 10-6 M TMAO did not impair vasodilation in response to acetylcholine (Ach), glucagon-like peptide 1, or insulin. Similarly, in lean WT mice (n = 5-6), TMAO injection prior to subjecting mice to ischemic stroke or arterial thrombosis did not increase its severity compared to vehicle treated mice. Endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) activity and intracellular stress-activated pathways remained unaltered in aorta of TMAO-injected rats, as assessed by Western Blot. Pre-incubation of human aortic endothelial cells with TMAO (10-6 M) did not alter NO release in response to Ach. Our results indicate that increased plasmatic TMAO in the near-physiological range seems to be a neutral bystander to vascular function as translationally seen in patients after bariatric surgery or in healthy lean rodent models and in endothelial cells exposed acutely to TMAO.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Endothelial Cells / metabolism
  • Endothelium, Vascular* / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Methylamines / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Rats
  • Vascular Diseases* / metabolism
  • Vasodilation


  • Methylamines
  • trimethyloxamine