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Decrease of tetrahydrobiopterin and NO generation in endothelial cells exposed to simulated diving

Purpose: Nitric oxide (NO) has been shown to protect against bubble formation and the risk of decompression sickness. We hypothesize that oxidation of tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4) leads to a decreased production of NO during simulated diving.

Methods: Human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC) were exposed to hyperoxia or simulated diving for 24 hours. The levels of biopterins (BH4, BH2 and B) were determined by LC-MS/MS, and the production of NO by monitoring the conversion of L-arginine to L-citrulline.

Results: Exposure to hyperoxia decreased BH4 in a dose-dependent manner; by 48 ± 15% following exposure to 40 kPa O2 (P < 0.001 vs. control at 20 kPa O2), and 70 ± 16% following exposure to 60 kPa O2. Exposure to 40 kPa O2 decreased NO production by 25 ± 9%, but there was no further decrease when increasing oxygen exposure to 60 kPa (25 ± 10%). No additional effects of simulated diving were observed, indicating no additive or synergistic effects of hyperbaria and hyperoxia on the BH4 level or NO generation.

Conclusion: NO generation in intact human endothelial cells was decreased by simulated diving, as well as by hyperoxic exposure, while BH4 levels seem to be affected only by hyperoxia. Hence, the results suggest that BH4 is not the sole determinant of NO generation in HUVEC.

DOI: 10.22462/04.06.2019.9