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Open Access Research article

Dual role of nNOS in ischemic injury and preconditioning

Anupama Barua1, Nicholas B Standen2 and Manuel Galiñanes13*

Author Affiliations

1 Cardiac Surgery Unit, Dept. of Cardiovascular Sciences, University of Leicester, UK

2 Dept. Cell Physiology & Pharmacology, University of Leicester, UK

3 Department of Cardiac Surgery, Area del Cor (ACOR) and Research Institute, University Hospital Vall d'Hebron, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain

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BMC Physiology 2010, 10:15  doi:10.1186/1472-6793-10-15

Published: 13 August 2010



Nitric oxide (NO) is cardioprotective and a mediator of ischemic preconditioning (IP). Endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) is protective against myocardial ischemic injury and a component of IP but the role and location of neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS) remains unclear. Therefore, the aims of these studies were to: (i) investigate the role of nNOS in ischemia/reoxygenation-induced injury and IP, (ii) determine whether its effect is species-dependent, and (iii) elucidate the relationship of nNOS with mitoKATP channels and p38MAPK, two key components of IP transduction pathway.


Ventricular myocardial slices from rats and wild and nNOS knockout mice, and right atrial myocardial slices from human were subjected to 90 min ischemia and 120 min reoxygenation (37°C). Specimens were randomized to receive various treatments (n = 6/group). Both the provision of exogenous NO and the inhibition of endogenous NO production significantly reduced tissue injury (creatine kinase release, cell necrosis and apoptosis), an effect that was species-independent. The cardioprotection seen with nNOS inhibition was as potent as that of IP, however, in nNOS knockout mice the cardioprotective effect of non-selective NOS (L-NAME) and selective nNOS inhibition and also that of IP was blocked while the benefit of exogenous NO remained intact. Additional studies revealed that the cardioprotection afforded by exogenous NO and by inhibition of nNOS were unaffected by the mitoKATP channel blocker 5-HD, although it was abrogated by p38MAPK blocker SB203580.


nNOS plays a dual role in ischemia/reoxygenation in that its presence is necessary to afford cardioprotection by IP and its inhibition reduces myocardial ischemic injury. The role of nNOS is species-independent and exerted downstream of the mitoKATP channels and upstream of p38MAPK.