Amino acids and gaseous signaling.
Gases, such as nitric oxide (NO), carbon monoxide (CO), hydrogen sulfide (H(2)S), and sulfur dioxide (SO(2)) are known toxic pollutants in the air. However, they are now recognized as important signaling molecules synthesized in animals and humans from arginine, glycine (heme), and cysteine, respectively. At physiological levels, NO, CO, and SO(2) activate guanylyl cyclase to generate cGMP which elicits a variety of responses (including relaxation of vascular smooth muscle cells, hemodynamics, neurotransmission, and cell metabolism) via cGMP-dependent protein kinases. H(2)S is also a crucial regulator of both neurological function and endothelium-dependent relaxation through cGMP-independent mechanisms involving stimulation of membrane K(ATP) channels and intracellular cAMP signaling. Additionally, NO, CO, and H(2)S confer cytoprotective and immunomodulatory effects. Moreover, NH(3) is a major product of amino acid catabolism and profoundly affects the function of neurons and the vasculature through glutamine-dependent inhibition of NO synthesis. Emerging evidence shows that amino acids are not only precursors for these endogenous gases, but are also regulators of their production in a cell-specific manner. Thus, recent advances on gaseous signaling have greatly expanded our basic knowledge of amino acid biochemistry and nutrition. These exciting discoveries will aid in the design of new nutritional and pharmacological means to prevent and treat major health problems related to developmental biology and nutrient metabolism, including intrauterine growth restriction, preterm birth, aging, neurological disorders, cancer, obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
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