The involvement of nitric oxide synthase neurons in enteric neuropathies

Leni Rose Rivera, Daniel Philip Poole, Michelle Thacker, John Barton Furness

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

138 Citations (Scopus)


Nitric oxide (NO), produced by the neural nitric oxide synthase enzyme (nNOS) is a transmitter of inhibitory neurons supplying the muscle of the gastrointestinal tract. Transmission from these neurons is necessary for sphincter relaxation that allows the passage of gut contents, and also for relaxation of muscle during propulsive activity in the colon. There are deficiencies of transmission from NOS neurons to the lower esophageal sphincter in esophageal achalasia, to the pyloric sphincter in hypertrophic pyloric stenosis and to the internal anal sphincter in colonic achalasia. Deficits in NOS neurons are observed in two disorders in which colonic propulsion fails, Hirschsprung s disease and Chagas disease. In addition, damage to NOS neurons occurs when there is stress to cells, in diabetes, resulting in gastroparesis, and following ischemia and reperfusion. A number of factors may contribute to the propensity of NOS neurons to be involved in enteric neuropathies. One of these is the failure of the neurons to maintain Ca 2+ homeostasis. In neurons in general, stress can increase cytoplasmic Ca 2+, causing a Ca 2+ toxicity. NOS neurons face the additional problem that NOS is activated by Ca 2+. This is hypothesized to produce an excess of NO, whose free radical properties can cause cell damage, which is exacerbated by peroxynitrite formed when NO reacts with oxygen free radicals.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)980 - 988
Number of pages9
JournalNeurogastroenterology & Motility
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes

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