Oxidation of tetrahydrobiopterin by peroxynitrite: Implications for vascular endothelial function

Sheldon Milstien, Zvonimir Katusic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

374 Scopus citations


Subsaturating levels of tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4), an essential cofactor for nitric oxide synthase (NOS), can lead to endothelial dysfunction as a result of decreased production of nitric oxide. Furthermore, insufficient BH4 can also result in NOS-uncoupled production of reactive oxygen intermediates, such as superoxide anion and hydrogen peroxide. Nitric oxide and superoxide react rapidly to form peroxynitrite, which may be the reactive species responsible for many of the toxic effects of nitric oxide. Here we show that BH4 is a primary target for peroxynitrite-catalyzed oxidation because at pH 7.4, physioloscally relevant concentrations of BH4 are oxidized rapidly by low concentrations of peroxynitrite. Peroxynitrite oxidizes BH4 to quinonoid 5,6-dihydrobiopterin and a large proportion of the quinonoid isomer readily loses its side chain to form 7,8 dihydropterin which is not a cofactor for nitric oxide synthase. Thus, abnormally low levels of BH4 can promote a cycle of its own destruction mediated by nitric oxide synthase-dependent formation of peroxynitrite. This mechanism might contribute to vascular endothelial dysfunction induced by oxidative stress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)681-684
Number of pages4
JournalBiochemical and Biophysical Research Communications
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 5 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Oxidation of tetrahydrobiopterin by peroxynitrite: Implications for vascular endothelial function'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this