In the respiratory tract, NO is produced by residential and inflammatory cells. NO is generated via oxidation of L-arginine that is catalysed by the enzyme NO synthase (NOS). NOS exists in three distinct isoforms: neuronal NOS (nNOS), inducible NOS (iNOS), and endothelial NOS (eNOS). NO derived from the constitutive isoforms of NOS (nNOS and eNOS) and other NO-adduct molecules (nitrosothiols) are able to modulate bronchomotor tone. NO derived from the inducible isoform of NO synthase, up-regulated by different cytokines via NF-kB-dependent pathway, seems to be a proinflammatory mediator with immunomodulatory effects. The production of NO under oxidative stress conditions secondarily generates strong oxidising agents (reactive nitrogen species) that may amplify the inflammatory response in asthma and COPD. Moreover, NO can be exhaled and levels are abnormal in stable atopic asthma and during exacerbations in both asthma and COPD. Exhaled NO might therefore be a non-invasive tool to monitor the underlying inflammatory process. It is suggested that NOS regulation provides a novel target in the prevention and treatment of chronic inflammatory diseases of the airways such as asthma and COPD.
Keywords: Nitric oxide, nNOS, iNOS, eNOS, asthma, COPD, nitrosothiols, exhaled NO
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