Nitric oxide in the nervous system: biochemical, developmental, and neurobiological aspects.

Research paper by Marcelo M Cossenza, Renato R Socodato, Camila C CC Portugal, Ivan C L IC Domith, Luis F H LF Gladulich, Thaísa G TG Encarnação, Karin C KC Calaza, Henrique R HR Mendonça, Paula P Campello-Costa, Roberto R Paes-de-Carvalho

Indexed on: 06 Sep '14Published on: 06 Sep '14Published in: Vitamins and hormones


Nitric oxide (NO) is a very reactive molecule, and its short half-life would make it virtually invisible until its discovery. NO activates soluble guanylyl cyclase (sGC), increasing 3',5'-cyclic guanosine monophosphate levels to activate PKGs. Although NO triggers several phosphorylation cascades due to its ability to react with Fe II in heme-containing proteins such as sGC, it also promotes a selective posttranslational modification in cysteine residues by S-nitrosylation, impacting on protein function, stability, and allocation. In the central nervous system (CNS), NO synthesis usually requires a functional coupling of nitric oxide synthase I (NOS I) and proteins such as NMDA receptors or carboxyl-terminal PDZ ligand of NOS (CAPON), which is critical for specificity and triggering of selected pathways. NO also modulates CREB (cAMP-responsive element-binding protein), ERK, AKT, and Src, with important implications for nerve cell survival and differentiation. Differences in the regulation of neuronal death or survival by NO may be explained by several mechanisms involving localization of NOS isoforms, amount of NO being produced or protein sets being modulated. A number of studies show that NO regulates neurotransmitter release and different aspects of synaptic dynamics, such as differentiation of synaptic specializations, microtubule dynamics, architecture of synaptic protein organization, and modulation of synaptic efficacy. NO has also been associated with synaptogenesis or synapse elimination, and it is required for long-term synaptic modifications taking place in axons or dendrites. In spite of tremendous advances in the knowledge of NO biological effects, a full description of its role in the CNS is far from being completely elucidated.