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OBJECTIVE: When the availability of tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4) is deficient, endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) produces superoxide rather than NO (uncoupled eNOS). We have shown that the atherosclerotic lesion size was augmented in apolipoprotein E-deficient (ApoE-KO) mice overexpressing eNOS because of the enhanced superoxide production. In this study, we addressed the specific importance of uncoupled eNOS in atherosclerosis, and the potential mechanistic role for specific versus nonspecific antioxidant strategies in restoring eNOS coupling. METHODS AND RESULTS: We crossed mice overexpressing eNOS in the endothelium (eNOS-Tg) with mice overexpressing GTP-cyclohydrolase I (GCH), the rate-limiting enzyme in BH4 synthesis, to generate ApoE-KO/eNOS-Tg/GCH-Tg mice. As a comparison, ApoE-KO/eNOS-Tg mice were treated with vitamin C. Atherosclerotic lesion formation was increased in ApoE-KO/eNOS-Tg mice compared with ApoE-KO mice. GCH overexpression in ApoE-KO/eNOS-Tg/GCH-Tg mice increased vascular BH4 levels and reduced plaque area. This reduction was associated with decreased superoxide production from uncoupled eNOS. Vitamin C treatment failed to reduce atherosclerotic lesion size in ApoE-KO/eNOS-Tg mice, despite reducing overall vascular superoxide production. CONCLUSION: In contrast to vitamin C treatment, augmenting BH4 levels in the endothelium by GCH overexpression reduced the accelerated atherosclerotic lesion formation in ApoE-KO/eNOS-Tg mice, associated with a reduction of superoxide production from uncoupled eNOS.

Original publication




Journal article


Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol

Publication Date





1632 - 1637


Analysis of Variance, Animals, Antioxidants, Apolipoproteins E, Ascorbic Acid, Atherosclerosis, Biopterin, Disease Models, Animal, Endothelium, Vascular, Female, GTP Cyclohydrolase, Mice, Mice, Inbred C57BL, Nitric Oxide Synthase Type III, Probability, Reactive Oxygen Species, Sensitivity and Specificity, Superoxides