Can endothelial hemoglobin-α regulate nitric oxide vasodilatory signaling?

Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2017 Apr 1;312(4):H854-H866. doi: 10.1152/ajpheart.00315.2016. Epub 2017 Jan 27.


We used mathematical modeling to investigate nitric oxide (NO)-dependent vasodilatory signaling in the arteriolar wall. Detailed continuum cellular models of calcium (Ca2+) dynamics and membrane electrophysiology in smooth muscle and endothelial cells (EC) were coupled with models of NO signaling and biotransport in an arteriole. We used this theoretical approach to examine the role of endothelial hemoglobin-α (Hbα) as a modulator of NO-mediated myoendothelial feedback, as previously suggested in Straub et al. (Nature 491: 473-477, 2012). The model considers enriched expression of inositol 1,4,5-triphosphate receptors (IP3Rs), endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) enzyme, Ca2+-activated potassium (KCa) channels and Hbα in myoendothelial projections (MPs) between the two cell layers. The model suggests that NO-mediated myoendothelial feedback is plausible if a significant percentage of eNOS is localized within or near the myoendothelial projection. Model results show that the ability of Hbα to regulate the myoendothelial feedback is conditional to its colocalization with eNOS near MPs at concentrations in the high nanomolar range (>0.2 μM or 24,000 molecules). Simulations also show that the effect of Hbα observed in in vitro experimental studies may overestimate its contribution in vivo, in the presence of blood perfusion. Thus, additional experimentation is required to quantify the presence and spatial distribution of Hbα in the EC, as well as to test that the strong effect of Hbα on NO signaling seen in vitro, translates also into a physiologically relevant response in vivo.NEW & NOTEWORTHY Mathematical modeling shows that although regulation of nitric oxide signaling by hemoglobin-α (Hbα) is plausible, it is conditional to its presence in significant concentrations colocalized with endothelial nitric oxide synthase in myoendothelial projections. Additional experimentation is required to test that the strong effect of Hbα seen in vitro translates into a physiologically relevant response in vivo.

Keywords: calcium dynamics; compartmentalization; myoendothelial signaling; smooth muscle cell; vasorelaxation.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Computer Simulation
  • Endothelium, Vascular / physiology*
  • Erythrocytes / drug effects
  • Feedback, Physiological
  • Hemoglobin A / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Inositol 1,4,5-Trisphosphate Receptors / drug effects
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Nitric Oxide / physiology*
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type III / biosynthesis
  • Potassium Channels, Calcium-Activated / biosynthesis
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Vasodilation / physiology*


  • Inositol 1,4,5-Trisphosphate Receptors
  • Potassium Channels, Calcium-Activated
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Hemoglobin A
  • NOS3 protein, human
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type III