, Volume 25, Issue 9-10, pp 1315-1341

NO Synthase and NO-Dependent Signal Pathways in Brain Aging and Neurodegenerative Disorders: The Role of Oxidant/Antioxidant Balance

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Nitric oxide and other reactive nitrogen species appear to play several crucial roles in the brain. These include physiological processes such as neuromodulation, neurotransmission and synaptic plasticity, and pathological processes such as neurodegeneration and neuroinflammation. There is increasing evidence that glial cells in the central nervous system can produce nitric oxide in vivo in response to stimulation by cytokines and that this production is mediated by the inducible isoform of nitric oxide synthase. Although the etiology and pathogenesis of the major neurodegenerative and neuroinflammatory disorders (Alzheimer's disease, amyothrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease and multiple sclerosis) are unknown, numerous recent studies strongly suggest that reactive nitrogen species play an important role. Furthermore, these species are probably involved in brain damage following ischemia and reperfusion, Down's syndrome and mitochondrial encephalopathies. Recent evidence also indicates the importance of cytoprotective proteins such as heat shock proteins (HSPs) which appear to be critically involved in protection from nitrosative and oxidative stress. In this review, evidence for the involvement of nitrosative stress in the pathogenesis of the major neurodegenerative/ neuroinflammatory diseases and the mechanisms operating in brain as a response to imbalance in the oxidant/antioxidant status are discussed.