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Neurosci Bull. 2011 Feb;27(1):23-35. doi: 10.1007/s12264-011-1038-0.

Research progress on neurobiology of neuronal nitric oxide synthase.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology, School of Pharmacy, Laboratory of Cerebrovascular Disease, Nanjing Medical University, Nanjing 210029, China.


Neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS) is mainly expressed in neurons, to some extent in astrocytes and neuronal stem cells. The alternative splicing of nNOS mRNA generates 5 isoforms of nNOS, including nNOS-α, nNOS-β, nNOS-µ, nNOS-γ and nNOS-2. Monomer of nNOS is inactive, and dimer is the active form. Dimerization requires tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4), heme and L-arginine binding. Regulation of nNOS expression relies largely on cAMP response element-binding protein (CREB) activity, and nNOS activity is regulated by heat shock protein 90 (HSP90)/HSP70, calmodulin (CaM), phosphorylation and dephosphorylation at Ser847 and Ser1412, and the protein inhibitor of nNOS (PIN). There are primarily 9 nNOS-interacting proteins, including post-synaptic density protein 95 (PSD95), clathrin assembly lymphoid leukemia (CALM), calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II alpha (CAMKIIA), Disks large homolog 4 (DLG4), DLG2, 6-phosphofructokinase, muscle type (PFK-M), carboxy-terminal PDZ ligand of nNOS (CAPON) protein, syntrophin and dynein light chain (LC). Among them, PSD95, CAPON and PFK-M are important nNOS adapter proteins in neurons. The interaction of PSD95 with nNOS controls synapse formation and is implicated in N-methyl-D-aspartic acid-induced neuronal death. nNOS-derived NO is implicated in synapse loss-mediated early cognitive/motor deficits in several neuropathological states, and negatively regulates neurogenesis under physiological and pathological conditions.

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