Introduction

Nitric oxide (NO), a free radical gas produced by the NO synthase (NOS) family of proteins, is a ubiquitous second messenger in diverse physiological responses in the cardiovascular system including vasodilation, anticoagulation, vascular remodeling and angiogenesis. In vitro and in vivo studies using NOS inhibitors or more recently, using mice deficient in each of the three mammalian isoforms, namely (1) endothelial NOS (eNOS), (2) cytokine-inducible NOS (iNOS), or (3) neuronal NOS (nNOS), have shown definitive roles of NO and its sources in the cardiovascular system. The purpose of this review is to highlight the evidence supporting various functional roles of NO in the microcirculation.

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