Nitric oxide (NO) upregulates NO synthase expression in fetal intrapulmonary artery endothelial cells

Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 1999 Nov;21(5):629-36. doi: 10.1165/ajrcmb.21.5.3749.


Endothelium-derived nitric oxide (NO) generated by endothelial NO synthase (eNOS) is critically involved in pulmonary vasodilation during cardiopulmonary transition at birth. Inhaled NO therapy has recently been considered for patients with persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN). To better understand the mechanisms regulating NO synthesis in the developing pulmonary circulation and the possible ramifications of NO therapy, studies were performed with early passage ovine fetal intrapulmonary artery endothelial cells (PAEC) to determine whether NO directly modulates eNOS expression. To examine the effects of exogenous NO, PAEC were treated with the NO donor spermine NONOate or the parent compound spermine. Exogenous NO caused increases in eNOS protein expression and NOS enzymatic activity that were detectable within 16 h of exposure. In contrast, the inhibition of endogenous NO production with nitro-L-arginine-methyl ester (L-NAME) caused a reduction in eNOS protein expression that was evident within 8 h. Paralleling the changes in eNOS protein, eNOS messenger RNA (mRNA) abundance was upregulated by exogenous NO and downregulated by L-NAME, suggesting that NO modulation of eNOS expression involves processes at the level of gene transcription or mRNA stability. Thus, in fetal PAEC there is positive-feedback regulation of eNOS expression by both exogenous and endogenous NO. These findings suggest that difficulties with transient effectiveness or prolonged requirements for NO therapy in certain PPHN patients are not due to declines in eNOS expression. Further, conditions such as fetal hypoxemia that impair PAEC NO production may attenuate eNOS expression through this mechanism, thereby contributing to the pathogenesis of PPHN.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blotting, Southern
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Endothelium, Vascular / drug effects*
  • Endothelium, Vascular / enzymology
  • Enzyme Activation / drug effects
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Immunoblotting
  • Mutagens / pharmacology
  • NG-Nitroarginine Methyl Ester / pharmacology
  • Nitric Oxide / pharmacology*
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / biosynthesis*
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / genetics
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type III
  • Nitrogen Oxides
  • Pulmonary Artery / enzymology*
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Sheep
  • Spermine / analogs & derivatives
  • Spermine / pharmacology
  • Time Factors
  • Up-Regulation / drug effects


  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Mutagens
  • Nitrogen Oxides
  • RNA, Messenger
  • spermine nitric oxide complex
  • Spermine
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type III
  • NG-Nitroarginine Methyl Ester