Introduction: The airways of obese asthmatics have been shown to be nitric oxide (NO) deficient, which contributes to airway dysfunction and reduced response to inhaled corticosteroids (ICS). In cultured airway epithelial cells, L-citrulline, a precursor of L-arginine recycling and NO formation, has been shown to prevent asymmetric di-methyl arginine (ADMA)-mediated NO synthase (NOS2) uncoupling, restoring NO and reducing oxidative stress. Methods: In a proof of concept, pre – post open label pilot study, we hypothesized that 15g/day of L-citrulline for two weeks would: a) increase the fractional excretion of NO (FeNO); b) improve asthma control and c) improve lung function. To do this, we recruited obese (body mass index [BMI] >30) asthmatics on controller therapy with a baseline fractional exhaled nitric oxide (FeNO) ≤ 30 ppb from the University of Colorado Medical Center and Duke University Health System. Results: A total of 41 subjects with an average FeNO of 17 ppb (95% 19 - 20) and poorly controlled asthma (average asthma control questionnaire [ACQ] 1.5 [95% 1.2 – 1.8) completed the study. Compared to baseline, L-citrulline increased (values represent the mean delta and 95%CI): plasma L-citrulline (190uM, 84 – 297), plasma L-arginine (67uM, 38 – 95), plasma L-arginine/ADMA (117, 67 - 167), but not ADMA or arginase concentration. FeNO increased by 4.2ppb (1.7 – 6.7); ACQ decreased by -0.46 (-0.67 – -0.27); the forced vital capacity (FVC) and forced exhalation volume in one second (FEV1) respectively changed by 86 ml (10 – 161), and 52 ml (-11 – 132). In a secondary analysis, the greatest FEV1 increments occurred in those subjects with late onset asthma (>12 years) (63 ml [95%CI 1 – 137]), in females (80 ml [95%CI 5 – 154]), with a greater change seen in late onset females (100ml, [95%CI 2 – 177]). The changes in lung function or asthma control were not significantly associated with the pre-post changes in L-arginine/ADMA or FeNO. Conclusion: Short-term L-citrulline treatment improved asthma control and FeNO levels in obese asthmatics with low or normal FeNO. Larger FEV1 increments were observed in those with late onset asthma and in females.
Fernando Holguin, Hartmut Grasemann, Sunita Sharma, Daniel Winnica, Karen Wasil, Vong Smithphone, Margaret H. Cruse, Nancy Perez, Erika Coleman, Timothy J. Scialla, Loretta Que