Nitric oxide availability in diabetes mellitus

Diabetes Metab Rev. 1998 Sep;14(3):241-9. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1099-0895(1998090)14:3<241::aid-dmr216>;2-r.


Diabetes mellitus is associated with early development of cardiovascular complications. Under physiological conditions the endothelium protects against the development of atherosclerosis. Endothelial cells produce, e.g., nitric oxide (NO), a substance which is capable of keeping vascular tone, coagulation and inflammation well balanced. However, in pathological conditions, such as in diabetes mellitus, impaired NO activity may be present. Decreased NO activity can be caused by impaired production of NO, due to uncoupling of receptor-mediated signal transduction, a deficiency of the NO synthase (NOS) substrate L-arginine, or a decreased availability of one or more cofactors essential for optimal functioning of NOS. However, hyperglycaemia also stimulates the production of advanced glycosylated end products, enhances the polyol pathway and activates protein kinase C. These conditions may lead to increased oxidative stress. Reactive oxygen species rapidly inactivate NO leading to the formation of peroxynitrite. Peroxynitrite is a toxic oxidant capable of damaging many biological molecules. Reduced NO availability may not only be of relevance to the development of atherosclerotic complications in diabetes but may also interfere with insulin-mediated postprandial glucose disposal and possibly contribute to the development of insulin resistance. Understanding of the complex metabolic disturbances interacting with the NO system may provide us with further therapeutic options to decrease cardiovascular morbidity and mortality in diabetes mellitus.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diabetes Mellitus / metabolism*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / therapy
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Nitric Oxide / biosynthesis
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism*


  • Nitric Oxide