On the origin of nitrosylated hemoglobin in COVID-19: Endothelial NO capture or redox conversion of nitrite?: Experimental results and a cautionary note on challenges in translational research

Renato C. Nogueira, Magdalena Minnion, Anna D. Clark, Alex Dyson, José E. Tanus-Santos, Martin Feelisch*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In blood, the majority of endothelial nitric oxide (NO) is scavenged by oxyhemoglobin, forming nitrate while a small part reacts with dissolved oxygen to nitrite; another fraction may bind to deoxyhemoglobin to generate nitrosylhemoglobin (HbNO) and/or react with a free cysteine to form a nitrosothiol. Circulating nitrite concentrations in healthy individuals are 200-700 nM, and can be even lower in patients with endothelial dysfunction. Those levels are similar to HbNO concentrations ([HbNO]) recently reported, whereby EPR-derived erythrocytic [HbNO] was lower in COVID-19 patients compared to uninfected subjects with similar cardiovascular risk load. We caution the values reported may not reflect true (patho)physiological concentrations but rather originate from complex chemical interactions of endogenous nitrite with hemoglobin and ascorbate/N-acetylcysteine. Using an orthogonal detection method, we find baseline [HbNO] to be in the single-digit nanomolar range; moreover, we find that these antioxidants, added to blood collection tubes to prevent degradation, artificially generate HbNO. Since circulating nitrite also varies with lifestyle, dietary habit and oral bacterial flora, [HbNO] may not reflect endothelial activity alone. Thus, its use as early marker of NO-dependent endothelial dysfunction to stratify COVID-19 patient risk may be premature. Moreover, oxidative stress not only impairs NO formation/bioavailability, but also shifts the chemical landscape into which NO is released, affecting its downstream metabolism. This compromises the endothelium's role as gatekeeper of tissue nutrient supply and modulator of blood cell function, challenging the body's ability to maintain redox balance. Further studies are warranted to clarify whether the nature of vascular dysfunction in COVID-19 is solely of endothelial nature or also includes altered erythrocyte function.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102362
JournalRedox Biology
Volume54
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022

Keywords

  • Ascorbate
  • Hemoglobin
  • Nitric oxide
  • Nitrite
  • Oxidative stress
  • Thiols

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