L-arginine-induced vasodilation in healthy humans: pharmacokinetic-pharmacodynamic relationship

Br J Clin Pharmacol. 1998 Nov;46(5):489-97. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2125.1998.00803.x.


Aims: Administration of L-arginine by intravenous infusion or via oral absorption has been shown to induce peripheral vasodilation in humans, and to improve endothelium-dependent vasodilation. We investigated the pharmacokinetics and pharmacokinetic-pharmacodynamic relationship of L-arginine after a single intravenous infusion of 30 g or 6 g, or after a single oral application of 6 g, as compared with the respective placebo, in eight healthy male human subjects.

Methods: L-arginine levels were determined by h.p.l.c. The vasodilator effects of L-arginine were assessed non-invasively by blood pressure monitoring and impedance cardiography. Urinary nitrate and cyclic GMP excretion rates were measured as non-invasive indicators of endogenous NO production.

Results: Plasma L-arginine levels increased to (mean +/- s.e.mean) 6223+/-407 (range, 5100-7680) and 822+/-59 (527-955) micromol l(-1) after intravenous infusion of 30 g and 6 g L-arginine, respectively, and to 310+/-152 (118-1219) micromol l(-1) after oral ingestion of 6 g L-arginine. Oral bioavailability of L-arginine was 68+/-9 (51-87)%. Clearance was 544+/-24 (440-620), 894+/-164 (470-1190), and 1018+/-230 (710-2130) ml min(-1), and elimination half-life was calculated as 41.6+/-2.3 (34-55), 59.6+/-9.1 (24-98), and 79.5+/-9.3 (50-121) min, respectively, for 30 g i.v., 6 g i.v., and 6 g p.o. of L-arginine. Blood pressure and total peripheral resistance were significantly decreased after intravenous infusion of 30 g L-arginine by 4.4+/-1.4% and 10.4+/-3.6%, respectively, but were not significantly changed after oral or intravenous administration of 6 g L-arginine. L-arginine (30 g) also significantly increased urinary nitrate and cyclic GMP excretion rates by 97+/-28 and 66+/-20%, respectively. After infusion of 6 g L-arginine, urinary nitrate excretion also significantly increased, (nitrate by 47+/-12% [P<0.05], cyclic GMP by 67+/-47% [P= ns]), although to a lesser and more variable extent than after 30 g of L-arginine. The onset and the duration of the vasodilator effect of L-arginine and its effects on endogenous NO production closely corresponded to the plasma concentration half-life of L-arginine, as indicated by an equilibration half-life of 6+/-2 (3.7-8.4) min between plasma concentration and effect in pharmacokinetic-pharmacodynamic analysis, and the lack of hysteresis in the plasma concentration-versus-effect plot.

Conclusions: The vascular effects of L-arginine are closely correlated with its plasma concentrations. These data may provide a basis for the utilization of L-arginine in cardiovascular diseases.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Adult
  • Arginine / pharmacokinetics*
  • Arginine / pharmacology*
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects
  • Cardiac Output / drug effects
  • Cyclic GMP / metabolism
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Heart Rate / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Injections, Intravenous
  • Male
  • Nitrates / urine
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism
  • Vasodilation / drug effects*


  • Nitrates
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Arginine
  • Cyclic GMP