Amino Acids

, Volume 51, Issue 3, pp 483–494 | Cite as

Pharmacological activation of dimethylarginine dimethylaminohydrolase (DDAH) activity by inorganic nitrate and DDAH inhibition by NG-hydroxy-l-arginine, Nω,Nω-dimethyl-l-citrulline and Nω,Nω-dimethyl-Nδ-hydroxy-l-citrulline: results and overview

  • Alexander Bollenbach
  • Dimitrios TsikasEmail author
Original Article


Asymmetric dimethylarginine (ADMA) and symmetric dimethylarginine (SDMA) are endogenous inhibitors of nitric oxide (NO) synthase. SDMA is excreted in the urine without major metabolization. About 10% of daily produced ADMA are excreted unchanged in the urine. The major elimination route of ADMA (about 90%) involves its hydrolysis to dimethylamine (DMA) and l-citrulline by dimethylarginine dimethylaminohydrolase (DDAH) and excretion of DMA in the urine. High circulating and low excretory concentrations of ADMA are considered risk factors. Experimentally, DDAH activity can be inhibited by SH-specific agents such as inorganic and organic mercury compounds, and by S-nitrosothiols which block the SH group of a particular cysteine moiety of DDAH that is essential for its hydrolytic activity. Alternatively, DDAH activity can be inhibited by organic compounds that compete with the substrate ADMA for DDAH. Arginine analogs that contain substituents on guanidine nitrogen atom(s) (NG) represent a class of DDAH inhibitors. In the present study, we investigated the effects of physiological and natural amino acid derivatives of l-arginine and l-citrulline as well as of nitrate and nitrite, the major circulating and excretory metabolites of NO and NO donating drugs. Here, we report for the first time that the physiological NG-hydroxy-l-arginine, an isolable intermediate in NO synthesis, inhibits recombinant DDAH-1 activity (IC50 ≈ 100 µM). Two plant l-citrulline derivatives, i.e., Nω,Nω-dimethyl-l-citrulline and Nω,Nω-dimethyl-Nδ-hydroxy-l-citrulline (connatin), were found to inhibit almost completely hepatic DDAH activity in vitro in rat homogenate at a concentration of 100 µM each. At pharmacological concentrations (i.e., 1 mM), inorganic nitrate, but not inorganic nitrite, was found to increase rat liver DDAH activity. In urine of 18 patients with Becker’s muscular dystrophy, nitrate was found to correlate closely with DMA (Spearman, r = 0.73, p = 0.002). In summary, NG-hydroxy-l-arginine, Nω,Nω-dimethyl-l-citrulline and Nω,Nω-dimethyl-Nδ-hydroxy-l-citrulline are novel inhibitors of DDAH activity. This article provides an overview of amino acid-based DDAH inhibitors and discusses potential underlying inhibition mechanisms.


Activation ADMA Connatin Dimethyl citrulline NG-Hydroxy-l-arginine Inhibition Nitrate 



Asymmetric dimethylarginine


Becker’s muscular dystrophy


Dimethylarginine dimethylaminohydrolase






Nitric oxide




Nitric oxide synthase


Protein arginine methyltransferase




Symmetric dimethylarginine



Drs. M. Nukina and C. Kimura (Course of the Science of Bioresources, the United Graduate School of Agricultural Sciences, Iwate University (Yamagata University), Yamagata, Japan) are sincerely thanked for providing connatin and dimethyl citrulline which were isolated, purified and characterized structurally in their laboratory.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest.

Ethical statement

Rats received humane care and the study protocol complied with the institutional guidelines of the Hannover Medical School.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Austria, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Toxicology, Core Unit ProteomicsHannover Medical SchoolHannoverGermany

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