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Head Neck. 2000 Jan;22(1):71-83.

The yin and yang of nitric oxide: reflections on the physiology and pathophysiology of NO.

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  • 1Department of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, Northwestern University School of Medicine, Searle Building 12-561, 303 East Chicago Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60611-3008, USA.


Nitric oxide (NO.) is an arginine-derived nitrogen-based radical that is rapidly becoming one of the most important molecular species to be discovered. Over the past decade, an explosion of evidence has revealed the extreme complexity of function of this seemingly simple inorganic molecule. It is now evident that NO. demonstrates a functional dualism, playing a pivotal role in numerous physiologic and pathophysiologic processes. Whether this molecule is beneficial or detrimental is dependent upon the tissue of generation, the level of production, the oxidative/reductive (redox) environment in which this radical is generated, and the presence or absence of NO. transduction elements. Nitric oxide is generated by three independent isoenzymes that resemble the p-450 enzyme superfamily in both form and function. It ultimately alters enzymatic function through covalent modification, redox interactions, and interactions with metallic functional centers. This radical is a key figure in a number of pathophysiologic processes by means of similar yet uncoordinated interactions. In consideration of the already broad spectrum of roles attributed to NO., it seems highly likely that this molecule will be implicated in an ever widening variety of functions relative to the practice of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery. This article reviews the enzymology, signal transduction mechanisms, physiology, and pathophysiology of NO. as it pertains to head and neck cancer.

Copyright 1999 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Head Neck 22: 71-83, 2000.

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