Nitric Oxide a vasodilator
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NITRIC OXIDE (NO) is one of the most important signaling molecules in our body.
Nitric Oxide or nitrogen monoxide is a chemical compound with chemical formula NO.
Nitric Oxide is an important messenger molecule involved in many physiological and
pathological processes within the mammalian body with both beneficial and detrimental
.It is a small, relatively unstable, potentially toxic, free radical that has become one of the
most studied and fascinating molecules in biological chemistry and medicine.
Nitric Oxide is a common air pollutant, a constituent of cigarette smoke, and a toxic gas,
which appears in the exhaust of motorcars,causes acid rain, and destroys the ozone layer.
The realization of such a molecule being produced within our bodies and acting as an
endogenous signaling molecule has revolutionized conceptual reasoning in science and
It is involved in virtually every organ system within our body but is known primarily for
maintaining normal blood pressure and blood flow to tissues. In the cardiovascular system
it can expand narrow blood vessels, eliminate dangerous clots and reduce artery-clogging
plaque formation. It also has important properties in the immune system where it helps us
fight off infections and cancer cells and in the nervous system where it helps our brain cells
Nitric Oxide should not be confused with nitrous oxide (N2O), a general anesthetic, or with
nitrogen dioxide (NO2) which is another poisonous air pollutant. The Nitric Oxide molecule is a
free radical with an unshared electron, which is relevant to understanding its high reactivity. It
reacts with the ozone in air to form nitrogen dioxide, signaled by the appearance of the
reddish-brown color as seen in smog. Nitric Oxide is a fundamental player in the fields of
neuroscience, physiology, and immunology, and was proclaimed "Molecule of the Year"
by Science in 1992 .
Nitric Oxide is one of the few gaseous signaling molecules known which has resulted in the search
for other gaseous messengers. It is a key vertebrate biological messenger, playing a role in a
variety of biological processes. Nitric Oxide, also known as the ?endothelium-derived relaxing
factor,? or EDRF, is biosynthesised endogenously from the amino acid L-arginine and oxygen by
various NO synthase (NOS) enzymes. Nitric Oxide is also formed within our body by the reduction
of inorganic nitrate and nitrite. The endothelium (inner lining) of blood vessels uses Nitric Oxide
to signal the surrounding smooth muscle to relax, thus resulting in vasodilation and increasing
blood flow and oxygen delivery. Nitric Oxide is highly reactive (having a lifetime less than a
second), yet diffuses freely across membranes and can travel 100?200 microns
(about 10 to 20 cell diameters). These attributes make Nitric Oxide ideal for a transient signal
molecule between adjacent cells and within cells. Effects of Nitric Oxide are widespread
throughout the body including, but not limited to blood vessel dilation, neurotransmission, host
response, modulation of the hair cycle, and penile erections. Nitroglycerin, an old and effective
treatment for angina for more than a century, serves as a vasodilator because it is converted to
Nitric Oxide in the body. Sildenafil, popularly known by the trade name Viagra, stimulates
erections primarily by enhancing signaling through the Nitric Oxide pathway in the penis.
There are a number of therapeutic strategies designed to affect the Nitric Oxide pathway in
humans and more are surely to follow as we learn and understand more about its actions.
Where can you find naturally occurring NO?
1.The most effective source is sweet red beets.
6. Green leafy vegetables
Nitric Oxide Molecule
1. Murad, F. Shattuck Lecture. Nitric oxide and cyclic GMP in cell signaling and drug development. The New England journal of medicine 355:2003?2011; 2006.
3. Ellen Coleman, MA, MPH, RD, CSSD
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