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Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology
Volume 2004, Issue 4, Pages 227-237
Review article

Nitric Oxide as a Unique Bioactive Signaling Messenger in Physiology and Pathophysiology

1International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, Aruna Asaf Ali Marg, New Delhi 110067, India
2Department of Medicine, King George's Medical University, Lucknow 226003, India
3Department of Biochemistry, Lucknow University, Lucknow 226007, India

Received 11 February 2004; Revised 14 April 2004; Accepted 21 April 2004

Copyright © 2004 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Nitric oxide (NO) is an intra- and extracellular messenger that mediates diverse signaling pathways in target cells and is known to play an important role in many physiological processes including neuronal signaling, immune response, inflammatory response, modulation of ion channels, phagocytic defense mechanism, penile erection, and cardiovascular homeostasis and its decompensation in atherogenesis. Recent studies have also revealed a role for NO as signaling molecule in plant, as it activates various defense genes and acts as developmental regulator. In plants, NO can also be produced by nitrate reductase. NO can operate through posttranslational modification of proteins (nitrosylation). NO is also a causative agent in various pathophysiological abnormalities. One of the very important systems, the cardiovascular system, is affected by NO production, as this bioactive molecule is involved in the regulation of cardiovascular motor tone, modulation of myocardial contractivity, control of cell proliferation, and inhibition of platelet activation, aggregation, and adhesion. The prime source of NO in the cardiovascular system is endothelial NO synthase, which is tightly regulated with respect to activity and localization. The inhibition of chronic NO synthesis leads to neurogenic and arterial hypertensions, which later contribute to development of myocardial fibrosis. Overall, the modulation of NO synthesis is associated with hypertension. This review briefly describes the physiology of NO, its synthesis, catabolism, and targeting, the mechanism of NO action, and the pharmacological role of NO with special reference to its essential role in hypertension.