Nitric oxide (NO) is a critical signaling molecule that has been implicated in the pathogenesis of neurocognitive diseases. Both excessive and insufficient NO production have been linked to pathology. Previously, we have shown that argininosuccinate lyase deficiency (ASLD) is a novel model system to investigate cell-autonomous, nitric oxide synthase–dependent NO deficiency. Humans with ASLD are at increased risk for developing hyperammonemia due to a block in ureagenesis. However, natural history studies have shown that individuals with ASLD have multisystem disease including neurocognitive deficits that can be independent of ammonia. Here, using ASLD as a model of NO deficiency, we investigated the effects of NO on brain endothelial cells in vitro and the blood-brain barrier (BBB) in vivo. Knockdown of ASL in human brain microvascular endothelial cells (HBMECs) led to decreased transendothelial electrical resistance, indicative of increased cell permeability. Mechanistically, treatment with an NO donor or inhibition of Claudin-1 improved barrier integrity in ASL-deficient HBMECs. Furthermore, in vivo assessment of a hypomorphic mouse model of ASLD showed increased BBB leakage, which was partially rescued by NO supplementation. Our results suggest that ASL-mediated NO synthesis is required for proper maintenance of brain microvascular endothelial cell functions as well as BBB integrity.
Jordan Kho, Urszula Polak, Ming-Ming Jiang, John D. Odom, Jill V. Hunter, Saima M. Ali, Lindsay C. Burrage, Sandesh C.S. Nagamani, Robia G. Pautler, Hannah P. Thompson, Akihiko Urayama, Zixue Jin, Brendan Lee