* To whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received September 5, 1997
Sustained production of large amounts of nitric oxide (NO) is induced in blood vessels by inflammatory stimuli as a result of the expression of the inducible form of NO-synthase (NOS-2). This happens in systemic inflammatory reactions like septic shock and in local reactions produced by endothelium denudation and atherosclerosis. NOS-2 activity in blood vessels may protect tissues by virtue of the vasodilating, anti-thrombotic and leukocyte adhesion inhibitory effects of NO. It may also participate in vascular remodeling as a result of the antiproliferative and pro-apoptotic actions of NO. However excessive production of NO in blood vessels is involved in circulatory failure that takes place in systemic inflammatory reactions and it may be cytotoxic for surrounding tissues. For these reasons, inhibition of NO overproduction has been proposed in the treatment of septic shock. Selective inhibitors of NOS-2 activity or NO trapping agent, or both, might prove to be valuable drugs in the treatment of some inflammatory diseases. The conditions in which NO shifts from a tissue protective to a damaging role are not well elucidated. Recent findings suggest that the interactions with superoxide radicals, thiols, and metals (particularly with Fe2+) may be important not only in buffering excess NO produced by NOS-2, but also in channeling it from physiologically to pathophysiologically relevant targets. It has also been found recently that adventitial cells may play an important part in vascular NO production and generation of NO stores in the media layer. The ultimate effect of NO in blood vessels might depend on its site of production, local concentration, and interactions with other tissue components.
KEY WORDS: nitric oxide, inducible nitric oxide synthase, inflammation, nitric oxide synthase inhibitors, nitric oxide stores, dinitrosyl--iron complexes, endothelium, media layer, vascular smooth muscle, adventitia, septic shock, restenosis, atherosclerosis