Nitric oxide and carotid body chemoreception
Nitric oxide (NO) has been proposed as an inhibitory modulator of carotid body chemosensory responses to hypoxia. It is believed that NO modulates carotid chemoreception by several mechanisms, which include the control of carotid body vascular tone and oxygen delivery and reduction of the excitability of chemoreceptor cells and petrosal sensory neurons. In addition to the well-known inhibitory effect, we found that NO has a dual (dose-dependent) effect on carotid chemoreception depending on the oxygen pressure level. During hypoxia, NO is primarily an inhibitory modulator of carotid chemoreception, while in normoxia NO increased the chemosensory activity. This excitatory effect produced by NO is likely mediated by an impairment of mitochondrial electron transport and oxidative phosphorylation, which increases the chemosensory activity. The recent findings that mitochondria contain an isoform of NO synthase, which produces significant amounts of NO for regulating their own respiration, suggest that NO may be important for the regulation of mitochondrial energy metabolism and oxygen sensing in the CB.