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J Physiol. 2011 Sep 1;589(17):4137-45. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2011.210831. Epub 2011 Jul 11.

Neurovascular protection by ischaemic tolerance: role of nitric oxide.

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Division of Neurobiology, 407 East 61st Street, Room 304, New York, NY, USA.


Nitric oxide (NO) has emerged as a key mediator in the mechanisms of ischaemic tolerance induced by a wide variety of preconditioning stimuli. NO is involved in the brain protection that develops either early (minutes-hours) or late (days-weeks) after the preconditioning stimulus. However, the sources of NO and the mechanisms underlying the protective effects differ substantially. While in early preconditioning NO is produced by the endothelial and neuronal isoform of NO synthase, in delayed preconditioning NO is synthesized by the inducible or 'immunological' isoform of NO synthase. Furthermore, in early preconditioning, NO acts through the canonical cGMP pathway, possibly through protein kinase G and opening of mitochondrial K(ATP) channels. In late preconditioning, the protection is mediated by peroxynitrite formed by the reaction of NO with superoxide derived from the enzyme NADPH oxidase. The mechanisms by which peroxynitrite exerts its protective effect may include improvement of post-ischaemic cerebrovascular function, leading to enhancement of blood flow to the ischaemic territory, and expression of prosurvival genes resulting in cytoprotection. The evidence suggests that NO can engage highly effective and multifunctional prosurvival pathways, which could be exploited for the prevention and treatment of cerebrovascular pathologies.

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