NO generation from nitrite and its role in vascular control

Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2005 May;25(5):915-22. doi: 10.1161/01.ATV.0000161048.72004.c2. Epub 2005 Mar 3.


NO generated from L-arginine by NO synthases (NOSs) in the endothelium and in other cells plays a central role in several aspects of vascular biology. The biological activity of NO is acutely terminated by oxidation to nitrite and nitrate, and these compounds have long been considered only as inert end-products of NO. However, this dogma is now being challenged because recent research convincingly has shown that the nitrite ion can be recycled back to bioactive NO again in blood and tissues. Nitrite reduction to NO can occur via several routes involving enzymes, proteins, vitamins, or even simple protons. This pathway may serve as a backup system for NO generation in conditions such as hypoxia, in which the NOS/L-arginine system is compromised, but detrimental effects can also be foreseen. With this new knowledge, nitrate and nitrite should probably be viewed as storage pools for NO rather than inert waste products. Here we discuss novel aspects of nitrite-dependent NO generation in vivo and its role in vascular control.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Endothelium, Vascular / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Nitrates / metabolism
  • Nitric Oxide / biosynthesis*
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism*
  • Nitrites / metabolism*
  • Vasodilation / physiology*


  • Nitrates
  • Nitrites
  • Nitric Oxide