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Biochim Biophys Acta. 1999 May 5;1411(2-3):351-69.

Nitric oxide and mitochondrial respiration.

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Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge, Tennis Court Road, Cambridge CB2 1QW, UK.


Nitric oxide (NO) and its derivative peroxynitrite (ONOO-) inhibit mitochondrial respiration by distinct mechanisms. Low (nanomolar) concentrations of NO specifically inhibit cytochrome oxidase in competition with oxygen, and this inhibition is fully reversible when NO is removed. Higher concentrations of NO can inhibit the other respiratory chain complexes, probably by nitrosylating or oxidising protein thiols and removing iron from the iron-sulphur centres. Peroxynitrite causes irreversible inhibition of mitochondrial respiration and damage to a variety of mitochondrial components via oxidising reactions. Thus peroxynitrite inhibits or damages mitochondrial complexes I, II, IV and V, aconitase, creatine kinase, the mitochondrial membrane, mitochondrial DNA, superoxide dismutase, and induces mitochondrial swelling, depolarisation, calcium release and permeability transition. The NO inhibition of cytochrome oxidase may be involved in the physiological regulation of respiration rate, as indicated by the finding that isolated cells producing NO can regulate cellular respiration by this means, and the finding that inhibition of NO synthase in vivo causes a stimulation of tissue and whole body oxygen consumption. The recent finding that mitochondria may contain a NO synthase and can produce significant amounts of NO to regulate their own respiration also suggests this regulation may be important for physiological regulation of energy metabolism. However, definitive evidence that NO regulation of mitochondrial respiration occurs in vivo is still missing, and interpretation is complicated by the fact that NO appears to affect tissue respiration by cGMP-dependent mechanisms. The NO inhibition of cytochrome oxidase may also be involved in the cytotoxicity of NO, and may cause increased oxygen radical production by mitochondria, which may in turn lead to the generation of peroxynitrite. Mitochondrial damage by peroxynitrite may mediate the cytotoxicity of NO, and may be involved in a variety of pathologies.

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