Mechanism of action of vitamin C in sepsis: Ascorbate modulates redox signaling in endothelium
Circulating levels of vitamin C (ascorbate) are low in patients with sepsis. Parenteral administration of ascorbate raises plasma and tissue concentrations of the vitamin and may decrease morbidity. In animal models of sepsis, intravenous ascorbate injection increases survival and protects several microvascular functions, namely, capillary blood flow, microvascular permeability barrier, and arteriolar responsiveness to vasoconstrictors and vasodilators. The effects of parenteral ascorbate on microvascular function are both rapid and persistent. Ascorbate quickly accumulates in microvascular endothelial cells, scavenges reactive oxygen species, and acts through tetrahydrobiopterin to stimulate nitric oxide production by endothelial nitric oxide synthase. A major reason for the long duration of the improvement in microvascular function is that cells retain high levels of ascorbate, which alter redox-sensitive signaling pathways to diminish septic induction of NADPH oxidase and inducible nitric oxide synthase. These observations are consistent with the hypothesis that microvascular function in sepsis may be improved by parenteral administration of ascorbate as an adjuvant therapy. © 2009 International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc.