Vascular incorporation of alpha-tocopherol prevents endothelial dysfunction due to oxidized LDL by inhibiting protein kinase C stimulation

J Clin Invest. 1996 Jul 15;98(2):386-94. doi: 10.1172/JCI118804.


Excess vascular oxidative stress has been linked to impaired endothelium-dependent arterial relaxation in hypercholesterolemia. alpha-Tocopherol (AT) preserves endothelial function in hypercholesterolemia although the mechanism(s) for this protective effect is (are) not known. We examined the tissue-specific effects of AT on oxidized LDL (ox-LDL)-mediated endothelial dysfunction in male New Zealand White rabbits. Animals consumed chow deficient in (< 10 IU/kg) or supplemented with (1,000 IU/kg) AT for 28 d. Exposure of thoracic aortae from AT-deficient animals to ox-LDL (0-500 microg/ml) for 4 h produced dose-dependent inhibition of acetylcholine-mediated relaxation (P < 0.05) while vessels derived from animals consuming AT were resistant to ox-LDL-mediated endothelial dysfunction. Animals consuming AT demonstrated a 100-fold increase in vascular AT content and this was strongly correlated with vessel resistance to endothelial dysfunction from ox-LDL (R = 0.67; P = 0.0014). These results were not explained by an effect of AT on ox-LDL-mediated cytotoxicity by LDH assay or scanning electron microscopy. Vascular incorporation of AT did produce resistance to endothelial dysfunction from protein kinase C stimulation, an event that has been implicated in the vascular response to ox-LDL. Human aortic endothelial cells loaded with AT also demonstrated resistance to protein kinase C stimulation by both phorbol ester and ox-LDL. Thus, these data indicate that enrichment of vascular tissue with AT protects the vascular endothelium from ox-LDL-mediated dysfunction, at least in part, through the inhibition of protein kinase C stimulation. These findings suggest one potential mechanism for the observed beneficial effect of AT in preventing the clinical expression of coronary artery disease that is distinct from the antioxidant protection of LDL.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Aorta, Thoracic / drug effects
  • Aorta, Thoracic / physiology
  • Aorta, Thoracic / physiopathology
  • Coronary Disease / physiopathology
  • Coronary Disease / prevention & control
  • Endothelium, Vascular / drug effects
  • Endothelium, Vascular / physiology*
  • Endothelium, Vascular / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Hypercholesterolemia / metabolism
  • Hypercholesterolemia / physiopathology
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • L-Lactate Dehydrogenase
  • Lipoproteins, LDL / blood
  • Lipoproteins, LDL / isolation & purification
  • Lipoproteins, LDL / pharmacology*
  • Lipoproteins, LDL / physiology*
  • Male
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular / drug effects
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular / physiology*
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular / physiopathology
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Protein Kinase C / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Protein Kinase C / metabolism*
  • Rabbits
  • Vitamin A Deficiency
  • Vitamin E / metabolism*
  • Vitamin E / pharmacology*


  • Lipoproteins, LDL
  • oxidized low density lipoprotein
  • Vitamin E
  • L-Lactate Dehydrogenase
  • Protein Kinase C