Background and objective: Atherosclerosis is one of the leading causes of human morbidity globally
and reduced bioavailability of vascular nitric oxide (NO) has a critical role in the progression and development of
the atherosclerotic disease. Loss of NO bioavailability, for example via a deficiency of the substrate (L-arginine)
or cofactors for endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS), invariably leads to detrimental vascular effects such as
impaired endothelial function and increased smooth muscle cell proliferation, deficiency of the substrate (Larginine)
or cofactors for eNOS. Various medicinal plants and their bioactive compounds or secondary metabolites
with fewer side effects are potentially implicated in preventing cardiovascular disease by increasing NO
bioavailability, thereby ameliorating endothelial dysfunction. In this review, we describe the most notable medicinal
plants and their bioactive compounds that may be appropriate for enhancing NO bioavailability, and
treatment of atherosclerosis.
Methods: The material in this article was obtained from noteworthy scientific databases, including Web of Science,
PubMed, Science Direct, Scopus and Google Scholar.
Results: Medicinal plants and their bioactive compounds influence NO production through diverse mechanisms
including the activation of the nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB) signaling pathway, activating protein kinase C
(PKC)-α, stimulating protein tyrosine kinase (PTK), reducing the conversion of nitrite to NO via nitrate-nitrite
reduction pathways, induction of eNOS, activating the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)/serine threonine
protein kinase B (AKT) (PI3K/AKT/eNOS/NO) pathway and decreasing oxidative stress.
Conclusion: Medicinal plants and/or their constituent bioactive compounds may be considered as safe therapeutic
options for enhancing NO bioavailability and prospective preventative therapy for atherosclerosis.