Posts Tagged ‘functions’

Curator/Author: Aviral Vatsa PhD, MBBS

Nitric oxide is one of the smallest molecules involved in physiological functions in the body. It is a diatom and thus seeks formation of chemical bonds with its targets rather than structure-function configuration of say protein receptors. Nitric oxide can exert its effects principally by two ways:

  • Direct
  • Indirect

Direct actions, as the name suggests, result from direct chemical interaction of NO with its targets e.g. with metal complexes, radical species. These actions occur at relatively low NO concentrations (<200 nM)

Indirect actions result from the effects of reactive nitrogen species (RNS) such as NO2 and N2O3. These reactive species are formed by the interaction of NO with superoxide or molecular oxygen. RNS are generally formed at relatively high NO concentrations (>400 nM)

Credits: Nitric Oxide: Biology and Pathobiology By Louis J. Ignarro

Credits: Nitric Oxide: Biology and Pathobiology By Louis J. Ignarro

Although it can be tempting for scientists to believe that RNS will always have deleterious effects and NO will have anabolic effects, this is not entirely true as certain RNS mediated actions mediate important signalling steps e.g. thiol oxidation and nitrosation of proteins mediate cell proliferation and survival, and apoptosis respectively. As depicted in the figure above, NO concentration determines the action it exerts on different proteins. This is highlighted in the following examples from different studies:

  • Cells subjected to NO concentration between 10-30 nM were associated with cGMP dependent phosphorylation of ERK
  • Cells subjected to NO concentration between 30-60 nM were associated with Akt phosphorylation
  • Concentration nearing 100 nM resulted in stabilisation of hypoxia inducible factor-1
  • At nearly 400 nM NO, p53 can be modulated
  • >1μM NO, it nhibits mitochondrial respiration

Besides the concentration, duration of NO exposure also determines how proteins respond to NO. Hence proteins can be ‘immediate’ responders or ‘delayed’ responders. The response can be either ‘transient’ (short lived) or ‘sustained’ (prolonged). Different proteins fall into these different categories. These are not rigid categories rather a functional ‘classification’.

Endogenously generated NO concentration ranges from 2 nM as in endothelial cell to >1 μM in a fully activated macrophage. This wide range, along with the unique chemical reactivity of NO offers immense versatility to the physiological effects that it can exert in different cellular milieu in the body.

In addition to the concentration-dependent effects, other factors that determine the local cellular/tissue milieu add to the complexities involved with signal transduction undertaken by NO. These factors are

  • rate of NO production
  • diffusion distance
  • rates of consumption
  • reactivity of RNS with molecular targets.

These kinetic determinants play vital role in physiological functions and disease states.

Although it is not possible to detail the modes of modulation of biological functions by NO in a short post, but I hope the post gives a taste of the intricacies involved with NO functions and that there are various parameters that determine the exact role of NO in a biological milieu.



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