The vasodilator molecule nitric oxide is critically involved in the successful cardiopulmonary transition from fetal to postnatal life. It is produced in the pulmonary endothelium by the endothelial isoform of the enzyme nitric oxide synthase. The expression of endothelial nitric oxide synthase in the lung increases dramatically during late gestation, optimizing the capacity for nitric oxide production at the time of birth. Studies in cultured cell models indicate that the developmental upregulation may be mediated by estrogen, and that the expression of the enzyme is also upregulated by oxygen. Pulmonary endothelial nitric oxide synthase expression is diminished in models of congenital diaphragmatic hernia and neonatal pulmonary hypertension induced by fetal ductal ligation. Thus, there is normally a marked developmental upregulation in endothelial nitric oxide synthase expression in the lung during late fetal life, and attenuated expression of the enzyme may contribute to the pathophysiology of a variety of forms of neonatal pulmonary vascular disease.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
- Obstetrics and Gynecology