The biological chemistry of nitric oxide as it pertains to the extrapulmonary effects of inhaled nitric oxide

Andrew J. Gow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


The chemical properties of nitric oxide (NO) have been studied for over 200 years. However, it is only within the last 20 years that the biological implications of this chemistry have been considered. The classical model of NO action within the vasculature centers on production in the endothelium, diffusion to the smooth muscle, and subsequent activation of guanylate cyclase via binding to its heme iron. In the context of this model, it is difficult to conceptualize extrapulmonary effects of inhaled NO. However,NOpossesses complex redox chemistry and is capable of forming a range of nitrogen oxide species and is therefore capable of interacting with a variety of biomolecules. Of particular interest is its reaction with reduced cysteine to form an S-nitrosothiol (SNO). SNOs are formed throughout NO biology and are a post-translational modification that has been shown to regulate many proteins under physiologic conditions. Hemoglobin, which was considered to be solely a consumer of NO, can form SNO in a conformationally dependent manner, which allows for the transport of inhaled NO beyond the realm of the lung. Higher oxides of nitrogen are capable of modifying proteins via nitration of tyrosines, which has been shown to occur under pathologic conditions. By virtue of its redox reactivity, one can appreciate that inhaled NO has a variety of routes by which it can act and that these routes may lead to extrapulmonary effects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)150-152
Number of pages3
JournalProceedings of the American Thoracic Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Lung
  • Nitric oxide
  • Nitrotyrosine
  • S-nitrosothiol

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology
  • Physiology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine

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