The role of nitric oxide in cardiovascular diseases

Mol Aspects Med. Feb-Apr 2005;26(1-2):33-65. doi: 10.1016/j.mam.2004.09.003. Epub 2005 Jan 24.


Nitric oxide (NO) is a gaseous lipophilic free radical cellular messenger generated by three distinct isoforms of nitric oxide synthases (NOS), neuronal (nNOS), inducible (iNOS) and endothelial NOS (eNOS). NO plays an important role in the protection against the onset and progression of cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease is associated with a number of different disorders including hypercholesterolaemia, hypertension and diabetes. The underlying pathology for most cardiovascular diseases is atherosclerosis, which is in turn associated with endothelial dysfunctional. The cardioprotective roles of NO include regulation of blood pressure and vascular tone, inhibition of platelet aggregation and leukocyte adhesion, and prevention smooth muscle cell proliferation. Reduced bioavailability of NO is thought to be one of the central factors common to cardiovascular disease, although it is unclear whether this is a cause of, or result of, endothelial dysfunction. Disturbances in NO bioavailability leads to a loss of the cardio protective actions and in some case may even increase disease progression. In this chapter the cellular and biochemical mechanisms leading to reduced NO bioavailability are discussed and evidence for the prevalence of these mechanisms in cardiovascular disease evaluated.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arteriosclerosis / physiopathology
  • Blood Platelets / metabolism
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Hypercholesterolemia / physiopathology
  • Hypertension / physiopathology
  • Lipoproteins, LDL / metabolism
  • Nitric Oxide / physiology*
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Shock, Septic / physiopathology


  • Lipoproteins, LDL
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • oxidized low density lipoprotein
  • Nitric Oxide