RATIONALE - There is evidence that impairments in nitric oxide (NO) signaling contribute to chronic hypoxia-induced pulmonary hypertension. The L-arginine-NO precursor, L-citrulline, has been shown to ameliorate pulmonary hypertension. Sodium-coupled neutral amino acid transporters (SNATs) are involved in the transport of L-citrulline into pulmonary arterial endothelial cells (PAECs). The functional link between the SNATs, L-citrulline, and NO signaling has not yet been explored.
OBJECTIVE - We tested the hypothesis that changes in SNAT1 expression and transport function regulate NO production by modulating eNOS coupling in newborn piglet PAECs.
METHODS AND RESULTS - A silencing RNA (siRNA) technique was used to assess the contribution of SNAT1 to NO production and eNOS coupling (eNOS dimer-to-monomer ratios) in PAECs from newborn piglets cultured under normoxic and hypoxic conditions in the presence and absence of L-citrulline. SNAT1 siRNA reduced basal NO production in normoxic PAECs and prevented L-citrulline-induced elevations in NO production in both normoxic and hypoxic PAECs. SNAT1 siRNA reduced basal eNOS dimer-to-monomer ratios in normoxic PAECs and prevented L-citrulline-induced increases in eNOS dimer-to-monomer ratios in hypoxic PAECs.
CONCLUSIONS - SNAT1 mediated L-citrulline transport modulates eNOS coupling and thus regulates NO production in hypoxic PAECs from newborn piglets. Strategies that increase SNAT1-mediated transport and supply of L-citrulline may serve as novel therapeutic approaches to enhance NO production in patients with pulmonary vascular disease.