Collect. Czech. Chem. Commun. 1997, 62, 1355-1383

Nitrogen(II) Oxide (Nitric Oxide, NO): Its Origin, Fate and Physiological Significance. A Review

Petr Vetrovsky and Gustav Entlicher

Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Science, Charles University, 128 40 Prague 2,Czech Republic


The nitrogen oxide (NO), a free radical molecule, plays a key role in the regulation of mammalian physiology and pathophysiology, e.g., in cardiovascular, nervous or immune systems. This molecule is produced from guanidino moiety of amino acid L-arginine with NG-hydroxy-L-arginine as intermediate and L-citrulline as a co-product of this reaction. This conversion is catalyzed by an ezyme called NO-synthase. The NO-synthase belongs to the cytochrome P450 superfamily and four its isoenzymes are known so far. Two (denoted NOS-I and III) are constitutive, generate lower amounts (pmol) of NO and are regulated by Ca++/calmodulin system. The others (NOS-II and IV) are inducible, produce a larger quantity of NO (nmol) and are regulated at a transcriptional level. The constitutive form is present, for example, in endothelial and neuronal cells whereas the inducible form is de novo synthesized as a consequence of certain stimuli (including cytokines) in macrophages, vascular smooth muscle cells and other cells. There are several target molecules for NO depending on cells. The most frequent target is supposed to be the soluble guanylate cyclase. However, superoxide anion is a very important target for NO, too. The reaction between these two molecules leads to the production of peroxynitrite, the fate of which depends on environmental conditions. Therefore, the importance of this reaction is still debated. This review deals with the nature of NO, the mechanisms of its production, the role of intermediate NG-hydroxy-L-arginine and summarizes the biology of superoxide anion with respect to its reaction with NO. A review with 218 references.

Keywords: L-Arginine; NG-Hydroxy-L-arginine; Nitric oxide; Nitrogen(II) oxide; NO-Synthase; Superoxide ion.