L-arginine prevents xanthoma development and inhibits atherosclerosis in LDL receptor knockout mice

Walif Aji, Stefano Ravalli, Matthias Szabolcs, Xian Cheng Jiang, Robert R. Sciacca, Robert E. Michler, Paul J. Cannon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

152 Scopus citations


Background: The potential antiatherosclerotic actions of NO were investigated in four groups of mice (n=10 per group) lacking functional LDL receptor genes, an animal model of familial hypercholesterolemia. Group 1 was fed a regular chow diet. Groups 2 through 4 were fed a 1.25% high-cholesterol diet. In addition, group 3 received supplemental L-arginine and group 4 received L-arginine and N(ω)-nitro-L-arginine (L-NA), an inhibitor of NO synthase (NOS). Methods and Results: Animals were killed at 6 months; aortas were stained with oil red O for planimetry and with antibodies against constitutive and inducible NOSs. Plasma cholesterol was markedly increased in the animals receiving the high-cholesterol diet. Xanthomas appeared in all mice fed the high-cholesterol diet alone but not in those receiving L- arginine. Aortic atherosclerosis was present in all mice on the high- cholesterol diet. The mean atherosclerotic lesion area was reduced significantly (P<.01) in the cholesterol-fed mice given L-arginine compared with those receiving the high-cholesterol diet alone. The mean atherosclerotic lesion area was significantly larger (P<.01) in cholesterol- fed mice receiving L-arginine + L-NA than in those on the high-cholesterol diet alone. Within the atherosclerotic plaques, endothelial cells immunoreacted for endothelial cell NOS; macrophages, foam cells, and smooth muscle cells immunostained strongly for inducible NOS and nitrotyrosine residues. Conclusions: The data indicate that L-arginine prevents xanthoma formation and reduces atherosclerosis in LDL receptor knockout mice fed a high-cholesterol diet. The abrogation of the beneficial effects of L- arginine by L-NA suggests that the anti-atherosclerotic actions of L-arginine are mediated by NOS. The data suggest that L-arginine may be beneficial in familial hypercholesterolemia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)430-437
Number of pages8
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • L-arginine
  • atherosclerosis
  • genes
  • hypercholesterolemia
  • nitric oxide synthase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


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