Dysfunction of nitric oxide synthases as a cause and therapeutic target in delayed cerebral vasospasm after SAH

  • Ryszard M. Pluta
Part of the Acta Neurochirurgica Supplementum book series (NEUROCHIRURGICA, volume 104)


Nitric oxide (NO), also known as endothelium-derived relaxing factor, is produced by endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) in the intima and by neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS) in the adventitia of cerebral vessels. It dilates the arteries in response to shear stress, metabolic demands, pterygopalatine ganglion stimulation, and chemoregulation. Subarachnoid haemorrhage (SAH) interrupts this regulation of cerebral blood flow. Hemoglobin, gradually released from erythrocytes in the subarachnoid space destroys nNOS-containing neurons in the conductive arteries. This deprives the arteries of NO, leading to the initiation of delayed vasospasm. But such vessel narrowing increases shear stress, which stimulates eNOS. This mechanism normally would lead to increased production of NO and dilation of arteries. However, a transient eNOS dysfunction evoked by an increase of the endogenous competitive nitric oxide synthase (NOS) inhibitor, asymmetric dimethyl-arginine (ADMA), prevents this vasodilation. eNOS dysfunction has been recently shown to be evoked by increased levels of ADMA in CSF in response to the presence of bilirubin-oxidized fragments (BOXes). A direct cause of the increased ADMA CSF level is most likely decreased ADMA elimination due to the disappearance of ADMA-hydrolyzing enzyme (DDAH II) immunoreactivity in the arteries in spasm. This eNOS dysfunction sustains vasospasm. CSF ADMA levels are closely associated with the degree and time-course of vasospasm; when CSF ADMA levels decrease, vasospasm resolves. Thus, the exogenous delivery of NO, inhibiting the L-arginine-methylating enzyme (IPRMT3) or stimulating DDAH II, may provide new therapeutic modalities to prevent and treat vasospasm. This paper will present results of preclinical studies supporting the NO-based hypothesis of delayed cerebral vasospasm development and its prevention by increased NO availability.


Nitric oxide NO donors SAH vasospasm PDE ADMA nitrite 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Surgical Neurology Branch, National Institutes of HealthNational Institute of Neurological Disorders and StrokeBethesdaUSA

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