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Carla S. Jung, Edward H. Oldfield, Judith Harvey-White, Michael G. Espey, Michael Zimmermann, Volker Seifert, and Ryszard M. Pluta


Delayed cerebral vasospasm after subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) may be evoked by the decreased availability of nitric oxide (NO). Increased cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) levels of asymmetric dimethyl-l-arginine (ADMA), an endogenous inhibitor of NO synthase (NOS), have been associated with the course and degree of cerebral vasospasm in a primate model of SAH. In this study, the authors sought to determine if similar changes in CSF ADMA levels are observed in patients with SAH, and whether these changes are associated with NO and NOS metabolite levels in the CSF and the presence of cerebral vasospasm.


Asymmetric dimethyl-l-arginine, l-arginine, l-citrulline, and nitrite levels were measured in CSF and serum samples collected during the 21-day period after a single aneurysmal SAH in 18 consecutive patients. Samples were also obtained in a control group consisting of seven patients with Chiari malformation Type I and five patients with spontaneous intracerebral hemorrhage without SAH. Vasospasm, defined as a greater than 11% reduction in the anterior circulation vessel diameter ratio compared with the ratio calculated from the initial arteriogram, was assessed on cerebral arteriography performed around Day 7.


In 13 patients with SAH, arteriographic cerebral vasospasm developed. Cerebrospinal fluid ADMA levels in patients with SAH were higher than in those in the control group (p < 0.001). The CSF ADMA level remained unchanged in the five patients with SAH without vasospasm, but was significantly increased in patients with vasospasm after Day 3 (6.2 ± 1.7 μM) peaking during Days 7 through 9 (13.3 ± 6.7 μM; p < 0.001) and then gradually decreasing between Days 12 and 21 (8.8 ± 3.2 μM; p < 0.05). Nitrite levels in the CSF were lower in patients with vasospasm compared to patients without vasospasm (p < 0.03). Cerebrospinal fluid ADMA levels positively correlated with the degree of vasospasm (correlation coefficient [CC] = 0.88, p = 0.0001; 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.74–0.95) and negatively correlated with CSF nitrite levels (CC = −0.55; p = 0.017; 95% CI −0.81 to −0.12).


These results support the hypothesis that ADMA is involved in the progression of cerebral vasospasm. Asymmetric dimethyl-l-arginine and its metabolizing enzymes may be a future target for treatment of cerebral vasospasm after SAH.

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Ryszard M. Pluta, Carla S. Jung, Judith Harvey-White, Anne Whitehead, Sabrina Shilad, Michael G. Espey, and Edward H. Oldfield

Object. Increased cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) levels of asymmetric dimethyl l-arginine (ADMA), an endogenous inhibitor of endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS), are associated with delayed vasospasm after subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH); however, the source, cellular mechanisms, and pharmacological inhibition of ADMA production following SAH are unknown.

Methods. In an in vitro experiment involving human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs), the authors examined mechanisms potentially responsible for increased ADMA levels during vasospasm and investigated whether this increase can be inhibited pharmacologically. In a second study, an in vivo experiment, the authors used probucol, which effectively inhibited ADMA increase in HUVEC cultures in vitro, in a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled experiment in a primate model of delayed cerebral vasospasm after SAH.

Oxidized low-density lipids (OxLDLs; positive control; p < 0.02) and bilirubin oxidation products (BOXes; p < 0.01), but not oxyhemoglobin (p = 0.74), increased ADMA levels in HUVECs. Probucol inhibited changes in ADMA levels evoked by either OxLDLs (p < 0.001) or BOXes (p < 0.01). Comparable changes were observed in cell lysates. In vivo probucol (100 mg/kg by mouth daily) did not alter serum ADMA levels on Days 7, 14, and 21 after SAH compared with levels before SAH, and these levels were not different from those observed in the placebo group (p = 0.3). Despite achieving therapeutic levels in plasma and measurable levels in CSF, probucol neither prevented increased CSF ADMA levels nor the development of vasospasm after SAH. Increased CSF ADMA and decreased nitrite levels in both groups were strongly associated with the degree of delayed vasospasm after SAH (correlation coefficient [CC] 0.5, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.19–0.72, p < 0.002 and CC −0.43, 95% CI −0.7 to < 0.05, p < 0.03, respectively).

Conclusions. Bilirubin oxidation products, but not oxyhemoglobin, increased ADMA levels in the HUVEC. Despite its in vitro ability to lower ADMA levels, probucol failed to inhibit increased CSF ADMA and decreased nitrite levels, and it did not prevent delayed vasospasm in a primate SAH model.

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Carla S. Jung, Brian A. Iuliano, Judith Harvey-White, Michael G. Espey, Edward H. Oldfield, and Ryszard M. Pluta

Object. Decreased availability of nitric oxide (NO) has been proposed to evoke delayed cerebral vasospasm after subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH). Asymmetric dimethyl-l-arginine (ADMA) inhibits endothelial NO synthase (eNOS) and, therefore, may be responsible for decreased NO availability in cases of cerebral vasospasm. The goal of this study was to determine whether ADMA levels are associated with cerebral vasospasm in a primate model of SAH.

Methods. Twenty-two cynomolgus monkeys (six control animals and 16 with SAH) were used in this study. The levels of ADMA, l-arginine, l-citrulline, nitrites, and nitrates in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and serum were determined on Days 0, 7, 14, and 21 following onset of SAH. Cerebral arteriography was performed to assess the degree of vasospasm. Western blot analyses of the right and left middle cerebral arteries (MCAs) were performed to assess the expression of eNOS, type I protein—arginine methyl transferase (PRMT1) and dimethylarginine dimethylaminohydrolase (DDAH2).

Cerebrospinal fluid levels of ADMA remained unchanged in the control group (six animals) and in animals with SAH that did not have vasospasm (five animals; p = 0.17), but the levels increased in animals with vasospasm (11 animals) on Day 7 post-SAH (p < 0.01) and decreased on Days 14 through 21 (p < 0.05). Cerebrospinal fluid levels of ADMA correlated directly with the degree of vasospasm (correlation coefficient = 0.7, p = 0.0001; 95% confidence interval: 0.43–0.83). Levels of nitrite and nitrate as well as those of l-citrulline in CSF were decreased in animals with vasospasm. Furthermore, DDAH2 expression was attenuated in the right spastic MCA on Day 7 post-SAH, whereas eNOS and PRMT1 expression remained unchanged.

Conclusions. Changes in the CSF levels of ADMA are associated with the development and resolution of vasospasm found on arteriograms after SAH. The results indicate that endogenous inhibition of eNOS by ADMA may be involved in the development of delayed cerebral vasospasm. Inhibition of ADMA production may provide a new therapeutic approach for cerebral vasospasm after SAH.

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Ryszard M. Pluta, John K. B. Afshar, B. Gregory Thompson, Robert J. Boock, Judith Harvey-White, and Edward H. Oldfield

Object. The reduction in the level of nitric oxide (NO) is a purported mechanism of delayed vasospasm after subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH). Evidence in support of a causative role for NO includes the disappearance of nitric oxide synthase (NOS) from the adventitia of vessels in spasm, the destruction of NO by hemoglobin released from the clot into the subarachnoid space, and reversal of vasospasm by intracarotid NO. The authors sought to establish whether administration of l-arginine, the substrate of the NO-producing enzyme NOS, would reverse and/or prevent vasospasm in a primate model of SAH.

Methods. The study was composed of two sets of experiments: one in which l-arginine was infused over a brief period into the carotid artery of monkeys with vasospasm, and the other in which l-arginine was intravenously infused into monkeys over a longer period of time starting at onset of SAH. In the short-term infusion experiment, the effect of a 3-minute intracarotid infusion of l-arginine (intracarotid concentration 10−6 M) on the degree of vasospasm of the right middle cerebral artery (MCA) and on regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) was examined in five cynomolgus monkeys. In the long-term infusion experiment, the effect of a 14-day intravenous infusion of saline (control group, five animals) or l-arginine (10−3 M; six animals) on the occurrence and degree of cerebral vasospasm was examined in monkeys. The degree of vasospasm in all experiments was assessed by cerebral arteriography, which was performed preoperatively and on postoperative Days 7 (short and long-term infusion experiments) and 14 (long-term infusion experiment). In the long-term infusion experiment, plasma levels of l-arginine were measured at these times in the monkeys to confirm l-arginine availability.

Vasospasm was not affected by the intracarotid infusion of l-arginine (shown by the reduction in the right MCA area on an anteroposterior arteriogram compared with preoperative values). However, intracarotid l-arginine infusion increased rCBF by 21% (p < 0.015; PCO2 38–42 mm Hg) in all vasospastic monkeys compared with rCBF measured during the saline infusions. In the long-term infusion experiment, vasospasm of the right MCA occurred with similar intensity with or without continuous intravenous administration of l-arginine on Day 7 and had resolved by Day 14. The mean plasma l-arginine level increased during infusion from 12.7 ± 4 µg/ml on Day 0 to 21.9 ± 13.1 µg/ml on Day 7 and was 18.5 ± 3.1 µg/ml on Day 14 (p < 0.05).

Conclusions. Brief intracarotid and continuous intravenous infusion of l-arginine did not influence the incidence or degree of cerebral vasospasm. After SAH, intracarotid infusion of l-arginine markedly increased rCBF in a primate model of SAH. These findings discourage the use of l-arginine as a treatment for vasospasm after SAH.