Cardiovascular disease is the major cause of global mortality and disability. Abundant evidence indicates that amino acids play a fundamental role in cardiovascular physiology and pathology. Decades of research established the importance of L-arginine in promoting vascular health through the generation of the gas nitric oxide. More recently, L-glutamine, L-tryptophan, and L-cysteine have also been shown to modulate vascular function via the formation of a myriad of metabolites, including a number of gases (ammonia, carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, and sulfur dioxide). These amino acids and their metabolites preserve vascular homeostasis by regulating critical cellular processes including proliferation, migration, differentiation, apoptosis, contractility, and senescence. Furthermore, they exert potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects in the circulation, and block the accumulation of lipids within the arterial wall. They also mitigate known risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including hypertension, hyperlipidemia, obesity, and diabetes. However, in some instances, the metabolism of these amino acids through discrete pathways yields compounds that fosters vascular disease. While supplementation with amino acid monotherapy targeting the deficiency has ameliorated arterial disease in many animal models, this approach has been less successful in the clinic. A more robust approach combining amino acid supplementation with antioxidants, anti-inflammatory agents, and/or specific amino acid enzymatic pathway inhibitors may prove more successful. Alternatively, supplementation with amino acid-derived metabolites rather than the parent molecule may elicit beneficial effects while bypassing potentially harmful pathways of metabolism. Finally, there is an emerging recognition that circulating levels of multiple amino acids are perturbed in vascular disease and that a more holistic approach that targets all these amino acid derangements is required to restore circulatory function in diseased blood vessels.
Adv Exp Med Biol. 2020;1265:39-56. doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-45328-2_3. PMID: 32761569.