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J Exp Bot. 2006;57(3):471-8. Epub 2005 Dec 15.

Mechanisms for nitric oxide synthesis in plants.

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  • Section of Cell and Developmental Biology, Division of Biological Sciences, University of California at San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093-0116, USA. ncrawford@ucsd.edu


The discovery that nitric oxide (NO) acts as a signal fundamentally shifted our understanding of free radicals from toxic by-products of oxidative metabolism to key regulators of cellular functions. This discovery has led to intense investigation into the synthesis of NO in both animals and plants. Nitric oxide synthases (NOS) are the primary sources of NO in animals and are complex, highly regulated enzymes that oxidize arginine to NO and citrulline. Plant NO synthesis, however, appears more complex and includes both nitrite and arginine-dependent mechanisms. The components of the arginine pathway have been elusive as no known orthologues of animal NOS exist in plants. An Arabidopsis gene (AtNOS1) has been identified that is needed for NO synthesis in vivo and has biochemical properties similar to animal cNOS, yet it has no sequence similarity to any known animal NOS. An Atnos1 insertion mutant has been useful for genetic studies of NO regulation and for uncovering new roles for NO signalling. The elucidation of plant NO synthesis promises to yield novel mechanisms that may be applicable to animal systems.

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