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Nitric oxide may change basic understanding of cellular machinery

appeared with the addition of such tiny amounts of NO," Stamler said.

Two of the novel interactions discovered in yeast cells occurred in mouse cells only in the presence of NO, the researchers found. "The interactions seen in yeast turned out to be dramatically important in deciding the fate of mouse cells," he said.

Stamler's group suggests that NO regulates a broad spectrum of cellular reactions. NO might be as fundamentally important as phosphate in controlling cellular behavior, Stamler said. The addition of phosphate, known as phosphorylation, is the primary on-off switch for proteins that control basic life processes.

The Duke-based team's earlier work had revealed an unexpected role for nitric oxide. In blood cells, the NO molecule attaches to hemoglobin molecules, influencing oxygen delivery to tissues. However, said Stamler, the new studies suggest a broader role for NO in the body by revealing that the molecule influences interactions of a multitude of proteins.

The finding might have additional ramifications for understanding disease processes, said Stamler. Levels of NO commonly change in patients who have disease. For example, NO concentrations increase in patients with asthma. The finding that NO directly affects fundamental life reactions suggests that changes in cellular concentrations of the molecule might underlie some disease symptoms, Stamler said. Elucidating those effects could lead to new therapies.


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Contact: Kendall Morgan
kendall.morgan@duke.edu
919-684-4148
Duke University Medical Center
31-Jul-2003


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