Nitric oxide and the cardiovascular system

Compr Physiol. 2015 Apr;5(2):808-23. doi: 10.1002/cphy.c140052.


Nitric oxide (NO) generated by endothelial cells to relax vascular smooth muscle is one of the most intensely studied molecules in the past 25 years. Much of what is known about NO regulation of NO is based on blockade of its generation and analysis of changes in vascular regulation. This approach has been useful to demonstrate the importance of NO in large scale forms of regulation but provides less information on the nuances of NO regulation. However, there is a growing body of studies on multiple types of in vivo measurement of NO in normal and pathological conditions. This discussion will focus on in vivo studies and how they are reshaping the understanding of NO's role in vascular resistance regulation and the pathologies of hypertension and diabetes mellitus. The role of microelectrode measurements in the measurement of [NO] will be considered because much of the controversy about what NO does and at what concentration depends upon the measurement methodology. For those studies where the technology has been tested and found to be well founded, the concept evolving is that the stresses imposed on the vasculature in the form of flow-mediated stimulation, chemicals within the tissue, and oxygen tension can cause rapid and large changes in the NO concentration to affect vascular regulation. All these functions are compromised in both animal and human forms of hypertension and diabetes mellitus due to altered regulation of endothelial cells and formation of oxidants that both damage endothelial cells and change the regulation of endothelial nitric oxide synthase.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arteries / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / physiopathology*
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism*
  • Vascular Resistance / physiology*
  • Vasodilation / physiology*


  • Nitric Oxide