Nitric oxide production in the hypoxic lung

Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. 2001 Apr;280(4):L575-82. doi: 10.1152/ajplung.2001.280.4.L575.


Nitric oxide (NO) is a potent vasodilator and inhibitor of vascular remodeling. Reduced NO production has been implicated in the pathophysiology of pulmonary hypertension, with endothelial NO synthase (NOS) knockout mice showing an increased risk for pulmonary hypertension. Because molecular oxygen (O2) is an essential substrate for NO synthesis by the NOSs and biochemical studies using purified NOS isoforms have estimated the Michaelis-Menten constant values for O2 to be in the physiological range, it has been suggested that O2 substrate limitation may limit NO production in various pathophysiological conditions including hypoxia. This review summarizes numerous studies of the effects of acute and chronic hypoxia on NO production in the lungs of humans and animals as well as in cultured vascular cells. In addition, the effects of hypoxia on NOS expression and posttranslational regulation of NOS activity by other proteins are also discussed. Most studies found that hypoxia limits NO synthesis even when NOS expression is increased.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Animals
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cyclic GMP / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / metabolism*
  • Lung / metabolism*
  • Nitric Oxide / biosynthesis*
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / metabolism
  • Oxygen / metabolism


  • Nitric Oxide
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase
  • Cyclic GMP
  • Oxygen