As a primary antioxidant, ascorbic acid (AA) provides beneficial effects for vascular health mitigating oxidative stress and endothelial dysfunction. However, the association of intracellular AA with NO production occurring inside the endothelial cells remains unclear. In the present study, we addressed this issue by increasing intracellular AA directly through de novo synthesis. To restore AA synthesis pathway, bovine aortic endothelial cells were transfected with the plasmid vector encoding L-gulono-1,4-lactone oxidase (GULO, EC 1.1.3.
, the missing enzyme converting L-gulono-1,4-lactone (GUL) to AA. Functional expression of GULO was verified by Western blotting and in vitro enzyme activity assay. GULO expression alone did not lead to AA synthesis but the supply of GUL resulted in a marked increase of intracellular AA. When the cells were stimulated with calcium ionophore, A23187, NO production was more active in the GULO-expressing cells supplied with GUL, in comparison with the cells without GULO expression or without GUL supply, indicating that intracellular AA regulated NO production. Enhancement of NO production by intracellular AA was further verified in aortic endothelial cells obtained from eNOS knockout mice that were cotransfected with eNOS and GULO constructs. GULO-dependent AA synthesis also elevated intracellular tetrahydrobiopterin content, implicating that this essential cofactor of endothelial nitric oxide synthase ( eNOS) might mediate the AA effect. The present study strongly suggests that intracellular AA plays critical roles in vascular physiology through enhancing endothelial NO production.