Nitric oxide production by the human intestinal microbiota by dissimilatory nitrate reduction to ammonium

J Biomed Biotechnol. 2009;2009:284718. doi: 10.1155/2009/284718. Epub 2009 Nov 1.


The free radical nitric oxide (NO) is an important signaling molecule in the gastrointestinal tract. Besides eukaryotic cells, gut microorganisms are also capable of producing NO. However, the exact mechanism of NO production by the gut microorganisms is unknown. Microbial NO production was examined under in vitro conditions simulating the gastrointestinal ecosystem using L-arginine or nitrate as substrates. L-arginine did not influence the microbial NO production. However, NO concentrations in the order of 90 ng NO-N per L feed medium were produced by the fecal microbiota from nitrate. (15)N tracer experiments showed that nitrate was mainly reduced to ammonium by the dissimilatory nitrate reduction to ammonium (DNRA) pathway. To our knowledge, this is the first study showing that gastrointestinal microbiota can generate substantial amounts of NO by DNRA and not by the generally accepted denitrification or L-arginine pathway. Further work is needed to elucidate the exact role between NO produced by the gastrointestinal microbiota and host cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anaerobiosis
  • Arginine / metabolism
  • Buffers
  • Colon / microbiology
  • Culture Media
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism*
  • Intestines / microbiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Minerals / metabolism
  • Models, Biological
  • Nitrates / metabolism*
  • Nitric Oxide / biosynthesis*
  • Nitrogen Isotopes
  • Nitrous Oxide / metabolism
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Quaternary Ammonium Compounds / metabolism*


  • Buffers
  • Culture Media
  • Minerals
  • Nitrates
  • Nitrogen Isotopes
  • Quaternary Ammonium Compounds
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Arginine
  • Nitrous Oxide