Nitric oxide: the versatility of an extensive signal molecule

Annu Rev Plant Biol. 2003;54:109-36. doi: 10.1146/annurev.arplant.54.031902.134752.


Nitric oxide (NO) is a small highly diffusible gas and a ubiquitous bioactive molecule. Its chemical properties make NO a versatile signal molecule that functions through interactions with cellular targets via either redox or additive chemistry. In plants, NO plays a role in a broad spectrum of pathophysiological and developmental processes. Although nitric oxide synthase (NOS)-dependent NO production has been reported in plants, no gene, cDNA, or protein has been isolated to date. In parallel, precise and regulated NO production can be measured from the activity of the ubiquitous enzyme nitrate reductase (NR). In addition to endogenous NO formation, high NO emissions are observed from fertilized soils, but their effects on the physiology of plants are largely unknown. Many environmental and hormonal stimuli are transmitted either directly or indirectly by NO signaling cascades. The ability of NO to act simultaneously on several unrelated biochemical nodes and its redox homeostatic properties suggest that it might be a synchronizing molecule in plants.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Nitric Oxide / physiology*
  • Nitrogen / metabolism
  • Plant Growth Regulators / physiology
  • Plant Physiological Phenomena*
  • Signal Transduction


  • Plant Growth Regulators
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Nitrogen