Nitric oxide and nitric oxide synthase activity in plants

Phytochemistry. 2004 Apr;65(7):783-92. doi: 10.1016/j.phytochem.2004.02.001.


Research on NO in plants has gained considerable attention in recent years mainly due to its function in plant growth and development and as a key signalling molecule in different intracellular processes in plants. The NO emission from plants is known since the 1970s, and now there is abundant information on the multiple effects of exogenously applied NO on different physiological and biochemical processes of plants. The physiological function of NO in plants mainly involves the induction of different processes, including the expression of defence-related genes against pathogens and apoptosis/programmed cell death (PCD), maturation and senescence, stomatal closure, seed germination, root development and the induction of ethylene emission. NO can be produced in plants by non-enzymatic and enzymatic systems. The NO-producing enzymes identified in plants are nitrate reductase, and several nitric oxide synthase-like activities, including one localized in peroxisomes which has been biochemically characterized. Recently, two genes of plant proteins with NOS activity have been isolated and characterized for the first time, and both proteins do not have sequence similarities to any mammalian NOS isoform. However, different evidence available indicate that there are other potential enzymatic sources of NO in plants, including xanthine oxidoreductase, peroxidase, cytochrome P450, and some hemeproteins. In plants, the enzymatic production of the signal molecule NO, either constitutive or induced by different biotic/abiotic stresses, may be a much more common event than was initially thought.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Nitric Oxide / physiology*
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / metabolism*
  • Plant Physiological Phenomena
  • Plants / enzymology*


  • Nitric Oxide
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase