Background: L-Arginine is the precursor of endogenous nitric oxide (NO), which is a potent vasodilator acting via the intracellular second-messenger cGMP. In healthy humans, L-arginine induces peripheral vasodilation and inhibits platelet aggregation due to an increased NO production. Prostaglandin E1 (PGE1) induces peripheral vasodilation via stimulating prostacyclin receptors.
Methods and results: We investigated the effects of one intravenous infusion of L-arginine (30 g, 60 minutes) or PGE1 (40 microgram, 60 minutes) versus those of placebo (150 mL 0.9% saline, 60 minutes) on blood pressure, peripheral hemodynamics, and urinary NO3- and cGMP excretion rates in patients with critical limb ischemia (peripheral arterial occlusive disease stages Fontaine III or IV). Blood flow in the femoral artery was significantly increased by L-arginine (+42.3 +/- 7.9%, P<.05) and by PGE1 (+31.0 +/- 10.2%, P<.05) but not by placebo (+4.3 +/- 13.0%, P=NS). Urinary NO3- excretion increased by 131.8 +/- 39.5% after L-arginine (P<.05) but only by 32.3 +/- 17.2% after PGE1 (P=NS). Urinary cGMP excretion increased by 198.7 +/- 84.9% after L-arginine (P<.05) and by 94.2 +/- 58.8% after PGE1 (P=NS). Both urinary index metabolites were unchanged by placebo.
Conclusions: We conclude that intravenous L-arginine induces NO-dependent peripheral vasodilation in patients with critical limb ischemia. These effects are paralleled by increased urinary NO3- and cGMP excretion, indicating an enhanced systemic NO production. Increased urinary NO3- excretion may be a sum effect of NO synthase substrate provision (L-arginine) and increased shear stress (PGE1 and L-arginine).