Nitric oxide : biology and chemistry

Nitrate as a source of nitrite and nitric oxide during exercise hyperemia in rat skeletal muscle.

PMID 27000467


The presence of nitric oxide (NO) synthase enzymes, mainly the NOS1 isoform, in skeletal muscle had been well established; however in the last decade it has been realized that NO may also be produced by reduction of nitrate and tissue nitrite. We have recently shown that rodent skeletal muscle contains unusually high concentrations of nitrate, compared to blood and other tissues, likely produced by oxidation of NOS1-produced NO. In the present study we measured nitrate and nitrite levels in Wistar rat leg tissue before and after acute and chronic exercise of the animals on a treadmill. We found a very large decrease of muscle nitrate levels immediately after exercise accompanied by a transient increase of nitrite levels. A significant decrease in blood nitrate levels accompanied the changes in muscle levels. Using skeletal muscle tissue homogenates we established that xanthine oxidoreductase (XOR) is at least partially responsible for the generation of nitrite and/or NO from nitrate and that this effect is increased by slight lowering of pH and by other processes related to the exercise itself. We hypothesize that the skeletal muscle nitrate reservoir contributes significantly to the generation of nitrite and then, probably via formation of NO, exercise-induced functional hyperemia. A model for these metabolic interconversions in mammals is presented. These reactions could explain the muscle-generated vasodilator causing increased blood flow, with induced contraction, exercise, or hypoxia, postulated more than 100 years ago.