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Microsc Res Tech. 2001 Jun 1;53(5):325-35.

Nitric oxide: relation to integrity, injury, and healing of the gastric mucosa.

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Departmento de Farmacología, Facultad de Medicina, Universidad de Valencia, Valencia, Spain.


Nitric oxide (NO) plays a multifaceted role in mucosal integrity. The numerous functions of NO and the double-edged role played by NO in most of them provide a great complexity to the NO action. The three enzymatic sources of NO, neuronal NO-synthase (nNOS), endothelial NOS (eNOS), and inducible NOS (iNOS), have been characterised in the gastrointestinal tract. The protective properties of the NO derived from constitutive NO-synthases (eNOS and nNOS) have already been well established. Less clear is the role assigned to iNOS. The simplistic initial view of low levels of NO synthesised by constitutive NOS being protective while exaggerated NO levels after iNOS induction leading irremediably to cytotoxicity is being questioned by new evidence. As initially reported for constitutive NOS, iNOS activity may be associated to reduced leukocyte-endothelium interaction and platelet aggregation as well as protection of mucosal microcirculation. Moreover, iNOS activity may be important to resolve inflammation by increasing apoptosis in inflammatory cells. It is entirely possible that a low level of expression of iNOS will reflect a positive host-defense response to challenge, but that exaggerated or uncontrolled expression of iNOS itself becomes detrimental. There is no doubt about the protective role of NO in physiological conditions. However, when the mucosa is threatened, the role of NO becomes multiple and the final effect will probably depend on the nature of the insult, the environment involved, and the interaction with other mediators.

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