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Pharmacol Ther. 2009 Sep;123(3):386-400. doi: 10.1016/j.pharmthera.2009.05.005. Epub 2009 May 30.

Actions and interactions of nitric oxide, carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulphide in the cardiovascular system and in inflammation--a tale of three gases!

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  • 1Pharmaceutical Science Division, King's College London, Franklin-Wilkins Building, 150 Stamford Street, London SE19NH, UK.


Nitric oxide (NO), carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrogen sulphide (H(2)S) together make up a family of biologically active gases (the so-called 'gaseous triumvirate') with an increasingly well defined range of physiological effects plus roles to play in a number of disease states. Over the years, most researchers have concentrated their attention on understanding the part played by a single gas in one or more body systems. It is becoming more clear that all three gases are synthesised naturally in the body, often by the same cells within the same organs, and that all three gases exert essentially similar biological effects albeit via different mechanisms. Within the cardiovascular system, for example, all are vasodilators, promote angiogenesis and vascular remodelling and are protective towards tissue damage in for example, ischaemia-reperfusion injury in the heart. Similarly, all exhibit complex effects in inflammation with both pro- and anti-inflammatory effects recognised. It seems likely that cell function is controlled not by the activity of single gases working in isolation but by the concerted activity of all three of these gases working together.

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