Potential pitfalls in analyzing structural uncoupling of enos: Aging is not associated with increased enzyme monomerization

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3 Scopus citations


Homodimer formation is essential for the normal activity of endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS). Structural uncoupling of eNOS, with generation of enzyme monomers, is thought to contribute to endothelial dysfunction in several vascular disorders, including aging. However, low-temperature SDS-PAGE of healthy arteries has revealed considerable variation between studies in the relative expression of eNOS dimers and monomers. While assessing structural uncoupling of eNOS in aging arteries, we identified methodological pitfalls that might contribute to such variation. Therefore, using human cultured aortic endothelial cells and aortas from young and aged Fischer-344 rats, we investigated optimal approaches for analyzing the expression of eNOS monomers and dimers. The results demonstrated that published differences in treatment of cell lysates can significantly impact the relative expression of several eNOS species, including denatured monomers, partially folded monomers, dimers, and higher-order oligomers. In aortas, experiments initially confirmed a large increase in eNOS monomers in aging arteries, consistent with structural uncoupling. However, these monomers were actually endogenous IgG, which, under these conditions, has mobility similar to eNOS monomers. Increased IgG levels in aged aortas likely reflect the aging-induced disruption of endothelial junctions and increased arterial penetration of IgG. After removal of the IgG signal, there were low levels of eNOS monomers in young arteries, which were not significantly different in aged arteries. Therefore, structural uncoupling of eNOS is not a prominent feature in young healthy arteries, and the process is not increased by aging. The study also identifies optimal approaches to analyze eNOS dimers and monomers. NEW & NOTEWORTHY Structural uncoupling of endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) is considered central to endothelial dysfunction. However, reported levels of eNOS dimers and monomers vary widely, even in healthy arteries. We demonstrate that sample processing can alter relative levels of eNOS species. Moreover, endothelial dysfunction in aging aortas results in IgG accumulation, which, because of similar mobility to eNOS monomers, could be misinterpreted as structural uncoupling. Indeed, enzyme monomeriza-tion is not prominent in young or aging arteries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)H80-H88
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2019


  • Endothelial dysfunction
  • Vascular disease
  • Vasodilatation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


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