Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Molecular Medicine

Major Professor

Duane C. Eichler, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Denise R. Cooper, Ph.D.

Committee Member

William R. Gower, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Mark P. McLean, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Gene C. Ness, Ph.D.


insulin, vascular endothelial growth factor, bradykinin, ceramide, kinase, phosphorylation, post-translational modifications, heat shock protein 90, caveolin, endothelial nitric oxide synthase, subcellular localization, protein interactions


The citrulline-nitric oxide (NO) cycle, comprised of the enzymes argininosuccinate synthase (AS), argininosuccinate lyase (AL) and endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS), is responsible for the regulated production of endothelial NO. Although most studies have focused on eNOS to uncover important regulatory mechanisms, we and others have determined that AS is an essential and regulated step in endothelial NO production. AS is rate limiting for endothelial NO production and is the primary source of arginine, the substrate for eNOS-mediated NO production, despite saturating intracellular levels of arginine and available arginine transport systems. AS is essential for endothelial cell viability and its expression is regulated coordinately with eNOS by TNF and thiazolidenediones with concomitant effects on NO production. Given the importance of AS for endothelial health, we explored three independent regulatory mechanisms. In Chapter One, the functional consequences of altered AS expression due to overexpression, insulin, VEGF and ceramide were studied. We demonstrated that overexpression of AS leads to enhanced NO production and that insulin, VEGF and ceramide coordinately regulate the expression of AS and eNOS. In Chapter Two, the first post-translational modifications of AS in the endothelium were characterized. We determined that AS is an endogenous phosphoprotein in the endothelium, described several levels of biological significance of AS phosphorylation, identified 7 sites of AS phosphorylation and began to uncover the direct impact of phosphorylation on AS function. Finally, in Chapter Three, endothelial AS subcellular localization was defined and important protein interactions were identified including caveolin-1 and HSP90. The work presented in this dissertation demonstrates that multiple mechanisms regulate the function of AS, often coordinately with eNOS, and have a direct impact on nitric oxide production. Our findings suggest that the global understanding of the citrulline-NO cycle as a metabolic unit will unravel new paradigms that will re-define our understanding of the regulation of vascular function by NO.