Diabetes is associated with accelerated atherosclerosis and macrovascular complications are a major cause of morbidity and mortality in this disease. Although our understanding of vascular pathology has lately greatly improved, the mechanism(s) underlying enhanced atherosclerosis in diabetes remain unclear. Endothelial cell dysfunction is emerging as a key component in the pathophysiology of cardiovascular abnormalities associated with diabetes. Although it has been established that endothelium plays a critical role in overall homeostasis of the vessels, vascular smooth muscle cells (vSMC) in the arterial intima have a relevant part in the development of atherosclerosis in diabetes. However, high glucose induced alterations in vSMC behaviour are not fully characterized. Several studies have reported that impaired nitric oxide (NO) synthesis and/or actions are often present in diabetes and endothelial dysfunction. Furthermore, although endothelial cells are by far the main site of vascular NO synthesis, vSMC do express nitric oxyde synthases (NOSs) and NO synthesis in vSMC might be important in vessel's function. Although it is known that vSMC contribute to vascular pathology in diabetes by their change from a quiescent state to an activated proliferative and migratory phenotype (termed phenotypic modulation), whether this altered phenotypic modulation might also involve alterations in the nitrergic systems is still controversial. Our recent data indicate that, in vivo, chronic hyperglycemia might induce an increased number of vSMC proliferative clones which persist in culture and are associated with increased eNOS expression and activity. However, upregulation of eNOS and increased NO synthesis occur in the presence of a marked concomitant increase of O2- production. Since NO bioavailabilty might not be increased in high glucose stimulated vSMC, it is tempting to hypothesize that the proliferative phenotype observed in cells from diabetic rats is associated with a redox imbalance responsible quenching and/or trapping of NO, with the consequent loss of its biological activity. This might provide new insight on the mechanisms responsible for accelerated atherosclerosis in diabetes.
- Nitric oxide
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism