Circulating tetrahydrobiopterin concentrations in patients with septic shock

Helen Frances Galley, Anna Elizabeth Le Cras, K. Yassen, I. S. Grant, Nigel Robert Webster

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10 Citations (Scopus)


Nitric oxide synthase requires tetrahydrobiopterin for its activity. In animal models of sepsis, changes in circulating tetrahydrobiopterin concentrations precede increases in nitrate. We measured plasma tetrahydrobiopterin and nitrate concentrations on three consecutive days in 10 patients with septic shock and 10 critically ill control patients. Total nitrate concentration was measured after reduction of nitrite to nitrate. Tetrahydrobiopterin concentrations were measured using HPLC. The median (range) APACHE Il score was 22 (13-27) in the patients with septic shock and 25 (7-28) in the control group. The nitrate concentration was significantly higher in patients with septic shock than in controls (P=0.01) on all days but did not change with time. Tetrahydrobiopterin concentrations were highest in the patients with septic shock on day I only(P=0.037). In the seven patients with renal failure, both nitrate and tetrahydrobiopterin concentrations tended to be higher than in the 13 patients without renal failure. The nitrate concentration correlated with tetrahydrobiopterin concentration on day only (P=0.05). In patients with septic shock, both tetrahydrobiopterin and total nitrate concentrations were higher than those in critically ill controls but were increased mainly in patients with renal failure. In summary, tetrahydrobiopterin concentration increases during septic shock, in line with increases in nitrate concentration. However, as for nitrate, concentrations are affected by renal function. Measurement of tetrahydrobiopterin concentration is extremely technically demanding and time consuming and offers no advantage over measurement of nitrate concentration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)578-580
Number of pages2
JournalBritish Journal of Anaesthesia
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2001


  • pharmacology, nitric oxide
  • shock
  • kidney, function
  • enzymes, nitric oxide synthase


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