Nitric oxide synthases, the enzymes that generate NO gas, may be involved in reproduction and development of multicellular organisms at many levels and thus provide important targets for design of drugs to intervene in reproductive processes. This review focuses on the role of nitric oxide in key events of reproduction including gamete activation, fertilization, early cell divisions and implantation. A general trend highlighted by the studies reviewed is that NO plays a biphasic role in reproduction. That is, a narrow range of NO concentrations, usually low, will stimulate or enhance these early events in reproduction, but either a lack of NO or too much NO has negative consequences. One of the shortcomings of the field currently is the lack of molecular detail concerning the mechanism of NO action. This has been due in part to lack of technology for effective detection of NO and its molecular targets. A few targets of NO have been indirectly implicated and advances in this area of research will provide substrates for development of drugs to control reproductive function. Work from both invertebrate and vertebrate model systems is presented and implications for control of reproductive physiology discussed. Ubiquity of NO signaling in animals may mean that effective control of reproduction must target mediators of NO action and not NOS enzymes themselves.
Keywords: gamete activation, fertilization, oocyte maturation, implantation, enos, inos
Rights & PermissionsPrintExport