Nitric oxide (NO) has been shown to mediate a number of different physiological functions within every major organ system. This wide variety of functional roles is made all the more remarkable when one considers that NO is a simple diatomic molecule. However, despite the simplicity of the molecule, NO possesses a wide range of chemical reactivity and multiple potential reactive targets. It is the variability of NO reactivity, which leads to its capability to control such a vast range of biological functions. In essence the functionality of NO is controlled by its chemical reactivity. In order to understand this possibility further it is necessary to consider the biologically relevant reactions of nitric oxide. © 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.