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Molecular mechanisms involved in the regulation of the endothelial nitric oxide synthase.

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Institut für Kardiovaskuläre Physiologie, J. W. Goethe-Universität, Theodor-Stern-Kai 7, D-60590 Frankfurt am Main, Germany.


The endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS), the expression of which is regulated by a range of transcriptional and posttranscriptional mechanisms, generates nitric oxide (NO) in response to a number of stimuli. The physiologically most important determinants for the continuous generation of NO and thus the regulation of local blood flow are fluid shear stress and pulsatile stretch. Although eNOS activity is coupled to changes in endothelial cell Ca(2+) levels, an increase in Ca(2+) alone is not sufficient to affect enzyme activity because the binding of calmodulin (CaM) and the flow of electrons from the reductase to the oxygenase domain of the enzyme is dependent on protein phosphorylation and dephosphorylation. Two amino acids seem to be particularly important in regulating eNOS activity and these are a serine residue in the reductase domain (Ser(1177)) and a threonine residue (Thr(495)) located within the CaM-binding domain. Simultaneous alterations in the phosphorylation of Ser(1177) and Thr(495) in response to a variety of stimuli are regulated by a number of kinases and phosphatases that continuously associate with and dissociate from the eNOS signaling complex. eNOS associated proteins, such as caveolin, heat shock protein 90, eNOS interacting protein, and possibly also motor proteins provide the scaffold for the formation of the protein complex as well as its intracellular localization.

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