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Curr Pharm Des. 2002;8(3):177-200.

Progress in the development of selective nitric oxide synthase (NOS) inhibitors.

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Dipartimento di Scienze Farmaceutiche, Universita di Catania, Viale A. Doria 6, 95125, Catania, Italy.


Nitric oxide (NO), a molecular messenger synthesized by nitric oxide synthase (NOS) from L-arginine and molecular oxygen, is involved in a number of physiological and pathological processes in mammalians. Three structurally distinct isoforms of NOS have been identified: neuronal (nNOS), endothelial (eNOS) and inducible (iNOS). Although NO mediates several physiological functions, overproduction of NO by nNOS has been reported in a number of clinical disorders including acute (stroke) and chronic (schizophrenia, Alzheimer s, Parkinson s and AIDS dementia) neurodegenerative diseases, convulsions and pain; overproduction of NO by iNOS has been implicated in various pathological processes including septic shock, tissue damage following inflammation and rheumatoid arthritis. On the contrary, NO produced by eNOS has only physiological roles such as maintaining physiological vascular tone. Accordingly, selective inhibition of nNOS or iNOS vs eNOS may provide a novel therapeutic approach to various diseases; in addition selective inhibitors may represent useful tools for investigating other biological functions of NO. For these reasons, after the identification of N-methyl-L-arginine (L-NMA) as the first inhibitor of NO biosynthesis, design of selective NOS inhibitors has received much attention. In this article the recent developments of new molecules endowed with inhibitory properties against the various isoforms of NOS are reviewed. Major focus is placed on structure-activity-selectivity relationships especially concerning compounds belonging to the non-amino acid-based inhibitors.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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