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Despite its highly diffusible nature, the gaseous signalling molecule nitric oxide (NO) can exert specific effects within the CNS and PNS. To date, the specificity of the actions of NO remains an unsolved puzzle. There are several plausible mechanisms that might account for this specificity in the context of autonomic regulation of heart rate. NO acts at distinct levels within the autonomic nervous system to control cardiac rate, with opposing effects at different sites. We discuss factors that might contribute to this diversity of action, and conclude that the isoform of enzyme involved in producing NO, the spatial proximity of the NO source to the target, and differences in the intracellular coupling within the target cell are all crucial for encoding the functional action of NO.

Type

Journal article

Journal

Trends Neurosci

Publication Date

12/2002

Volume

25

Pages

626 - 631

Keywords

Animals, Autonomic Nervous System, Heart, Heart Rate, Humans, Myocytes, Cardiac, Nitric Oxide, Nitric Oxide Synthase, Solitary Nucleus