Endogenous nitric oxide in the airways of different animal species

Acta Anaesthesiol Scand. 1997 Oct;41(9):1133-41. doi: 10.1111/j.1399-6576.1997.tb04855.x.


Background: High amounts of endogenous nitric oxide (NO) have been demonstrated in the human upper airway, but the role of nasal NO is still unclear. The present study aims to describe nasal NO excretion in different animal species with special living conditions or anatomy.

Methods: Domestic animals (horse, cow, pig, sheep, dog, cat) and zoo-animals (Rhesus monkey, chimpanzee, gorilla, elephant, fur seal, alpaca, yak, dolphin, camel, capybara, bear, tiger, wolf, giraffe, alligator, Harris' hawk, kangaroo) were studied awake, resting or anaesthetised. NO concentrations were measured by chemiluminescence using different analysers and techniques, including measurements on mixed exhaled air, during continuous or intermittent gas sampling, and on single breaths.

Results: Rhesus monkeys (number of individuals N = 5) and pigs (N = 2) were compared and displayed quite different excretion patterns. Allowing NO to accumulate in the nose during timed occlusions yielded peak concentrations in monkeys of 0.46 +/- 0.07 parts per million (ppm, mean +/- SEM), 0.59 +/- 0.08 ppm, 0.70 +/- 0.08 ppm and 1.02 +/- 0.05 ppm NO after 15, 30, 60 and 120 s of occlusion. In pigs, 0.012-0.021 ppm NO were recorded, independent of occlusion time. The chimpanzee was similar to the Rhesus monkey and the highest NO value, 2.9 ppm, was recorded after 4-5 min of occlusion. In single breaths from 3 elephants 0.031-0.082 ppm, from 1 gorilla 0.029 ppm, and from 1 chimpanzee 0.069 +/- 0.003 ppm NO (8 observations) were recorded.

Conclusions: We found considerable species difference in nasal NO excretion with pronounced amounts only in primates and elephants. The physiological implications of these findings remain to be defined.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Cattle
  • Dogs
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism*
  • Respiratory System / metabolism*
  • Species Specificity


  • Nitric Oxide