Nitric oxide as modulator of neuronal function

Prog Neurobiol. 2001 May;64(1):51-68. doi: 10.1016/s0301-0082(00)00044-7.


The gas NO is a messenger that modulates neuronal function. The use of NO donors and NO synthase inhibitors as pharmacological tools revealed that this free radical is probably implicated in the regulation of excitability and firing, in long-term potentiation and long-term depression, as well as in memory processes. Moreover, NO modulates neurotransmitter release. In vivo and in vitro studies have shown that, in all brain structures investigated, endogenous NO modulates the release of several neurotransmitters, such as acetylcholine, catecholamines, excitatory and inhibitory amino acids, serotonin, histamine, and adenosine. In most cases, enhanced NO level in the tissue increases the release of neurotransmitters, although decreasing effects have also been observed. Cyclic 3'-5' guanosine monophosphate and glutamate mediate the modulation of transmitter release by NO. Recent observations suggest that the release of some transmitters is dually influenced by NO. Thus, besides modulation by presynaptically located auto- and heteroreceptors, NO released from nitrergic neurons seems to play a universal role in modulating the release of transmitters in the brain.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Chemistry / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / metabolism*
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism*
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*


  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • Nitric Oxide