BACKGROUND - L-Methionine potentiates systemic hemodynamic effects of intravenous glyceryl trinitrate (GTN) in tolerant and nontolerant patients to a similar extent as N-acetylcysteine (NAC). This potentiation of GTN action by L-methionine has been attributed to enhanced intracellular formation of nitrosothiols, known to be potent stimulators of soluble guanylyl cyclase. This study was performed to analyze directly the effects of L-methionine on GTN-induced dilation of large epicardial arteries and the venous capacitance system of the dog in the tolerant and nontolerant states. Cultured rat aortic vascular smooth muscle cells and purified guanylyl cyclase were used to study potential intracellular and extracellular mechanisms responsible for this interaction.
METHODS AND RESULTS - In awake nontolerant dogs, L-methionine (100 mg/kg) potentiated the tachycardic response to GTN (5.0 and 15 micrograms/kg/min) and enhanced the hypotensive action of GTN (1.5 and 5.0 micrograms/kg/min) in anesthetized, nonreflexic dogs. In nontolerant and tolerant dogs, however, L-methionine did not alter the dose-response of large epicardial artery dilation to intravenous GTN challenges and did not modify nitrate tolerance of the low pressure system of the dog. The infusion of L-methionine (100 mg/kg) significantly increased plasma methionine levels (from 52 +/- 12 to 1,141 +/- 239 microM), cystine levels (from 12 +/- 4 to 26 +/- 7 microM), but not homocystine levels. In vitro, the L-methionine conversion product L-cysteine (0.1-1.0 mM) but not homocysteine significantly enhanced the augmentation of purified guanylyl cyclase activity by GTN (100 microM). Incubation of cultured rat aortic smooth muscle cells with L-methionine (10 microM or 1 mM) did not result in a significant increase of free intracellular sulfhydryl group content.
CONCLUSIONS - The L-methionine conversion product L-cysteine mediates tolerance independent the potentiation of GTN action. This may result from an L-cysteine-induced formation of a vasoactive metabolite of GTN (nitric oxide) or nitrosothiol. This effect occurs primarily in the resistance vessel circulation, not in large epicardial arteries and veins. The lack of effect of L-methionine on sulfhydryl group content in large conductance vessels indicates that hepatic L-methionine metabolism constitutes the significant source of L-cysteine. These findings strongly suggest that administration of sulfhydryl-group precursor L-methionine does not represent a therapeutic alternative to a nitrate-free interval to restore nitrate sensitivity in tolerant large epicardial arteries and veins.