Recent methodological advances in the analysis of nitrite in the human circulation: nitrite as a biochemical parameter of the L-arginine/NO pathway

J Chromatogr B Analyt Technol Biomed Life Sci. 2007 May 15;851(1-2):106-23. doi: 10.1016/j.jchromb.2007.02.002. Epub 2007 Feb 14.


Nitric oxide (NO) plays a pivotal role in the modulation of multiple physiological processes. It acts as a messenger molecule within the cardiovascular system. NO is a highly unstable free radical in circulating blood and is oxidized rapidly to nitrite and nitrate. Recent studies suggest that nitrite has the potential to function as a surrogate of NO production under physiological and pathophysiological conditions and could therefore be of high relevance as a biochemical parameter in experimental and clinical studies. Under hypoxic conditions nitrite is reduced to bioactive NO by deoxyhemoglobin. This mechanism may represent a dynamic cycle of NO generation to adapt the demand and supply for the vascular system. Because of these potential biological functions the concentration of nitrite in blood is thought to be of particular importance. The determination of nitrite in biological matrices represents a considerable analytical challenge. Methodological problems often arise from pre-analytical sample preparation, sample contamination due to the ubiquity of nitrite, and from lack of selectivity and sensitivity. These analytical difficulties may be a plausible explanation for reported highly diverging concentrations of nitrite in the human circulation. The aim of this article is to review the methods of quantitative analysis of nitrite in the human circulation, notably in plasma and blood, and to discuss pre-analytical and analytical factors potentially affecting accurate quantification of nitrite in these human fluids.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Arginine / blood*
  • Clinical Laboratory Techniques / trends*
  • Humans
  • Luminescent Measurements
  • Nitric Oxide / blood*
  • Nitrites / blood*


  • Nitrites
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Arginine