Reactive nitrogen species in the respiratory tract

Eur J Pharmacol. 2006 Mar 8;533(1-3):240-52. doi: 10.1016/j.ejphar.2005.12.057. Epub 2006 Feb 7.


Endogenous Nitric Oxide (NO) plays a key role in the physiological regulation of airway functions. In response to various stimuli activated inflammatory cells (e.g., eosinophils and neutrophils) generate oxidants ("oxidative stress") which in conjunction with exaggerated enzymatic release of NO and augmented NO metabolites produce the formation of strong oxidizing reactive nitrogen species, such as peroxynitrite, in various airway diseases including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD), cystic fibrosis and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Reactive nitrogen species provoke amplification of inflammatory processes in the airways and lung parenchyma causing DNA damage, inhibition of mitochondrial respiration, protein dysfunction and cell damage ("nitrosative stress"). These effects alter respiratory homeostasis (such as bronchomotor tone and pulmonary surfactant activity) and the long-term persistence of "nitrosative stress" may contribute to the progressive deterioration of pulmonary functions leading to respiratory failure. Recent studies showing that protein nitration can be dynamic and reversible ("denitration mechanisms") open new horizons in the treatment of chronic respiratory diseases affected by the deleterious actions of "nitrosative stress".

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Asthma / metabolism
  • Asthma / pathology
  • Cystic Fibrosis / metabolism
  • Cystic Fibrosis / pathology
  • Humans
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism
  • Nitric Oxide / toxicity
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / metabolism
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / pathology
  • Reactive Nitrogen Species / metabolism*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Respiratory System / drug effects
  • Respiratory System / metabolism*
  • Respiratory System / pathology
  • Tyrosine / analogs & derivatives
  • Tyrosine / metabolism


  • Reactive Nitrogen Species
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Nitric Oxide
  • 3-nitrotyrosine
  • Tyrosine