BH4-mediated enhancement of endothelial nitric oxide synthase activity reduces hyperoxia-induced endothelial damage and preserves vascular integrity in the neonate

Kevin S. Edgar, Orla M. Galvin, Anthony Collins, Zvonimir S Katusic, Denise M. McDonald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Scopus citations


PURPOSE. Endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS)-derived nitric oxide (NO) has important vasoprotective functions that are compromised in the vasodegenerative phase of retinopathy of prematurity, owing to hyperoxia-induced depletion of the essential NOS cofactor BH4. Because modulating eNOS function can be beneficial or detrimental, our aim was to investigate the effect of BH4 supplementation on eNOS function and vascular regression in hyperoxia. METHODS. Endothelial-specific eNOS-green fluorescent protein (GFP) overexpressing mice at postnatal day 7 (P7) were exposed to hyperoxia for 48 hours in the presence or absence of supplemental BH4, achieved by administration of sepiapterin, a stable BH4 precursor. Tissue was collected either for retinal flat mounts that were stained with lectin to determine the extent of vessel coverage or for analysis of BH4 by high-performance liquid chromatography, nitrotyrosine (NT) marker by Western blotting, VEGF expression by ELISA, and NOS activity by arginine-to-citrulline conversion. Primary retinal microvascular endothelial cells (RMEC) were similarly treated, and hyperoxia-induced damage was determined. RESULTS. Sepiapterin effectively enhanced BH4 levels in hyperoxia-exposed retinas and brains, elevated NOS activity, and reduced NT-modified protein, leading to reversal of the exacerbated vasoregression observed in the presence of eNOS overexpression. In RMECs, hyperoxia-mediated depletion of BH4 dysregulated the redox balance by reducing nitrite and elevating superoxide and impaired proliferative ability. BH4 supplementation restored normal RMEC proliferation in vitro and also in vivo, providing a mechanistic link with the enhanced vascular coverage in eNOS-GFP retinas. CONCLUSIONS. These results demonstrate that BH4 supplementation corrects hyperoxiainduced RMEC dysfunction and preserves vascular integrity by enhancing eNOS function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)230-241
Number of pages12
JournalInvestigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017



  • Endothelial nitric oxide synthase
  • Retinal vasculature
  • Retinopathy of prematurity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

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