Glomerular actions of nitric oxide

Kidney Int. 1995 Jul;48(1):20-32. doi: 10.1038/ki.1995.262.


NO, a simple molecule synthesized from L-arginine by NO synthases, has been identified to play an important role in cell communication, cell defense and cell injury. The half life of NO is very short because NO either reacts with superoxide anion (O2-), and/or binds to heme molecules or Fe-S groups present in proteins. The biological effects of NO depend on both the concentration of NO at the site of action as well as upon the specific location where NO is generated. Small quantities of NO are generated by cNOS such as that present in the vascular endothelium, while large quantities of nitric oxide are synthesized by iNOS in response to cytokines or bacterial products. Within the kidney NO generated by endothelial cNOS participates in the regulation of the glomerular microcirculation by modifying the tone of the afferent arteriole and mesangial cells (Fig. 4). In addition, NO generated by macula densa and the afferent arteriole control glomerular hemodynamics via TGF and by modulating renin release. Therefore NO is important in the physiologic regulation of glomerular capillary blood pressure, glomerular plasma flow and the glomerular ultrafiltration coefficient. Through its actions on glomerular pressures and flows, NO may also regulate the macro- and micromolecular traffic through the mesangium. Chronic NO insufficiency causes hypertension and glomerular damage and may be causally involved in the genesis of salt dependent hypertension. Increased NO production may be involved in the early pathogenic hemodynamic changes in diabetes and in the physiologic hemodynamic responses to normal pregnancy. Maintenance of the antithrombogenic properties of the endothelium is another important action of NO which inhibits platelet aggregation and adhesion. Large quantities of NO such as that synthesized by either glomerular cells or macrophages during glomerular inflammation may lead to glomerular injury. A better understanding of the physiology and pathophysiology of NO in the kidney will lead to the development of new therapeutic avenues.

Publication types

  • Editorial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Kidney Glomerulus / physiology*
  • Nitric Oxide / physiology*


  • Nitric Oxide