Nitric oxide synthase inhibitors can antagonize neurogenic and calcitonin gene-related peptide induced dilation of dural meningeal vessels

Br J Pharmacol. 2002 Sep;137(1):62-8. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjp.0704842.


1. The detailed pathophysiology of migraine is beginning to be understood and is likely to involve activation of trigeminovascular afferents. 2. Clinically effective anti-migraine compounds are believed to have actions that include peripheral inhibition of calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) release from trigeminal neurones, or preventing dural vessel dilation, or both. CGRP antagonists can block both neurogenic and CGRP-induced dural vessel dilation. 3. Nitric oxide (NO) can induce headache in migraine patients and often triggers a delayed migraine. The initial headache is thought to be caused via a direct action of the NO-cGMP pathway that causes vasodilation by vascular smooth muscle relaxation, while the delayed headache is likely to be a result of triggering trigeminovascular activation. Nitric oxide synthase (NOS) inhibitors are effective in the treatment of acute migraine. 4. The present studies used intravital microscopy to examine the effects of specific NOS inhibitors on neurogenic dural vasodilation (NDV) and CGRP-induced dilation. 5. The non-specific and neuronal NOS (nNOS) inhibitors were able to partially inhibit NDV, while the non-specific and endothelial NOS (eNOS) inhibitors were able to partially inhibit the CGRP induced dilation. 6. There was no effect of the inducible NOS (iNOS) inhibitor. 7. The data suggest that the delayed headache response triggered by NO donors in humans may be due, in part, to increased nNOS activity in the trigeminal system that causes CGRP release and dural vessel dilation. 8. Further, eNOS activity in the endothelium causes NO production and smooth muscle relaxation by direct activation of the NO-cGMP pathway, and may be involved in the initial headache response.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide / pharmacology*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Dura Mater / blood supply*
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type I
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type II
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type III
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Vasodilation / drug effects*
  • Vasodilation / physiology


  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type I
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type II
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type III
  • Nos1 protein, rat
  • Nos2 protein, rat
  • Nos3 protein, rat
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide