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Auton Neurosci. 2002 Jun 28;98(1-2):24-7.

Mechanisms of action of nitric oxide in the brain stem: role of oxidative stress.

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Pfizer Global Research and Development, Sandwich Laboratoires, Sandwich, Kent, England, UK.


The exact mechanisms by which NO mediates its neuromodulatory effects within the central control of cardiovascular functions are still unclear. Both excitatory and inhibitory actions of NO in different regions of the brainstem have been reported, and that it could be caused by direct actions of NO on neurones and/or by NO-mediated changes in local cerebral blood flow. Microinjection studies suggest that direct modulation of neuronal activity by NO through cyclic 3'-5' guanosine monophosphate (cGMP)-dependent mechanisms predominates. In contrast, endogenous NO produces. only minor changes in local cerebral blood flow, and potentiation of NO-dependent vasodilation with an inhibitor of phosphodiesterase V (PDE5i) has no significant effect on sympathetic activity. Activation of the NO-system in the lower brain stem modulates various central and reflex-activated neuronal pathways. To a large extent, this appears to be mediated by NO-induced GABA- and glutamate-release within the ventrolateral medulla (VLM) and the nucleus of the solitary tract (NTS). In addition, NO has been shown to reduce local generation of angiotensin II (AII) in all areas. Recent studies suggest that the NO-mediated modulation of autonomic function is severely impaired in cardiovascular diseases. Possibly in conjunction with AII, which triggers and promotes superoxide radical generation, chronic oxidative stress (COS) could act as a key mediator of this process. Evidence supporting this hypothesis comes from studies on pigs that were chronically treated with organic nitrates to pharmacologically induce COS. In these animals, microinjection of superoxide dismutase into the rostral VLM (RVLM) diminished sympathetic activity by up to 70%, whereas peroxynitrite, a key mediator of NO-related oxidative stress, had excitotoxic effects. Antagonism of neuronal COS may therefore represent a novel approach to counteract neurohumoral activation in diseases such hypertension, obesity and heart failure.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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