Nitric oxide in skeletal muscle: inhibition of nitric oxide synthase inhibits walking speed in rats

Nitric Oxide. 2001 Jun;5(3):219-32. doi: 10.1006/niox.2001.0348.


Nitric oxide (NO*) is a multifunctional messenger molecule generated by a family of enzymes called the nitric oxide synthases (NOSs). Although NOSs have been identified in skeletal muscle, specifically brain NOS (bNOS) and endothelial NOS (eNOS), their role has not been well clarified. The goals of this investigation were to (1) characterize the immunoreactivity, Ca(2+) dependence, and activity of NOS in human and rat skeletal muscle and (2) using a rat model, investigate the effect of chronic blockade of NOS on skeletal muscle structure and function. Our results showed that both human and rodent skeletal muscle had NOS activity. This NOS activity was similar to that of the endothelial and brain NOS isoforms in that it was calcium-dependent. However, Western blot analysis consistently showed that a polyclonal antibody raised against a peptide sequence of human inducible NOS (iNOS) reacted with a protein with a molecular weight (95 kDa) that was different from that of other NOS isoforms. RT-PCR analysis identified the mRNA expression of not only eNOS and bNOS but also iNOS in human and rat muscle. Inhibition of nitric oxide synthase in rats with N(omega)-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester (L-NAME) resulted in a progressive, severe reduction in walking speed (30-fold reduction in walking velocity at day 22, P < 0.001), muscle fiber cross-sectional area (40% reduction at day 22, P < 0.001), and muscle mass (40% reduction in dry weight at day 22, P < 0.01). Rats fed the same regimen of the enantiomer of L-NAME (d-NAME) had normal motor function, muscle fiber morphology, and muscle mass. Taken together, these results imply that there may be a novel nitric oxide synthase in muscle and that NO. generated from muscle may be important in muscle function.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arginine / pharmacology
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Locomotion / drug effects
  • Locomotion / physiology
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / drug effects*
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / cytology
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / drug effects
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / cytology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / drug effects
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • NG-Nitroarginine Methyl Ester / pharmacology*
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism*
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / analysis
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / genetics*
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type II
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type III
  • Organ Size / drug effects
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Reference Values
  • Walking / physiology*


  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Arginine
  • NOS2 protein, human
  • NOS3 protein, human
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type II
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type III
  • Nos2 protein, rat
  • Nos3 protein, rat
  • NG-Nitroarginine Methyl Ester