Nitric oxide, mitochondrial hyperpolarization, and T cell activation

Free Radic Biol Med. 2007 Jun 1;42(11):1625-31. doi: 10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2007.02.026. Epub 2007 Mar 3.


T lymphocyte activation is associated with nitric oxide (NO) production, which plays an essential role in multiple T cell functions. NO acts as a messenger, activating soluble guanyl cyclase and participating in the transduction signaling pathways involving cyclic GMP. NO modulates mitochondrial events that are involved in apoptosis and regulates mitochondrial membrane potential and mitochondrial biogenesis in many cell types, including lymphocytes. Mitochondrial hyperpolarization (MHP), an early and reversible event during both activation and apoptosis of Tlymphocytes, is regulated by NO. Here, we discuss recent evidence that NO-induced MHP represents a molecular switch in multiple T cell signaling pathways. Overproduction of NO in systemic lupus erythematosus induces mitochondrial biogenesis and alters Ca(2+) signaling. Thus, whereas NO plays a physiological role in lymphocyte cell signaling, its overproduction may disturb normal T cell function, contributing to the pathogenesis of autoimmunity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autoimmunity
  • Calcium Signaling
  • Humans
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / immunology*
  • Lymphocyte Activation*
  • Membrane Potential, Mitochondrial*
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism*
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*


  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell
  • Nitric Oxide