Neuronal NOS localises to human airway cilia

Nitric Oxide. 2015 Jan 30;44:3-7. doi: 10.1016/j.niox.2014.11.003. Epub 2014 Nov 6.


Background: Airway NO synthase (NOS) isoenzymes are responsible for rapid and localised nitric oxide (NO) production and are expressed in airway epithelium. We sought to determine the localisation of neuronal NOS (nNOS) in airway epithelium due to the paucity of evidence.

Methods and results: Sections of healthy human bronchial tissue in glycol methacrylate resin and human nasal polyps in paraffin wax were immunohistochemically labelled and reproducibly demonstrated nNOS immunoreactivity, particularly at the proximal portion of cilia; this immunoreactivity was blocked by a specific nNOS peptide fragment. Healthy human epithelial cells differentiated at an air-liquid interface (ALI) confirmed the presence of all three NOS isoenzymes by immunofluorescence labelling. Only nNOS immunoreactivity was specific to the ciliary axonemeand co-localised with the cilia marker β-tubulin in the proximal part of the ciliary axoneme.

Conclusions: We report a novel localisation of nNOS at the proximal portion of cilia in airway epithelium and conclude that its independent and local regulation of NO levels is crucial for normal cilia function.

Keywords: Airway; Cilia; EC; Epithelium; NOS; nNOS.

MeSH terms

  • Bronchi / chemistry
  • Bronchi / enzymology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cilia / chemistry
  • Cilia / enzymology*
  • Cilia / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Nasal Polyps / chemistry
  • Nasal Polyps / enzymology
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type I / chemistry
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type I / metabolism*
  • Respiratory Mucosa / chemistry
  • Respiratory Mucosa / cytology
  • Respiratory Mucosa / enzymology*
  • Respiratory Mucosa / metabolism


  • NOS1 protein, human
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type I