• Nitric oxide;
  • autoxidation;
  • nitrosation;
  • micellar catalysis;
  • lens effect


The reaction between nitric oxide (•NO) and oxygen yields reactive species capable of oxidizing and nitrosating proteins, as well as deaminating DNA bases. Although this reaction is considered too slow to be biologically relevant, it has been shown that membranes, lipoproteins, mitochondria and possibly proteins can accelerate this reaction. This effect stems from the higher solubility of both •NO and O2in the hydrophobic phase of these biological particles, leading to a concentration of both reagents and so a higher rate of reaction. It has been determined that this reaction occurs from 30 to 300 times more rapidly within the membrane, while even higher values have been suggested for proteins. The autoxidation of •NO in membranes is not the main route for cellular •NO consumption but an important consequence of this phenomenon is to focus the generation of significant amounts of oxidizing and nitrosating molecules (nitrogen dioxide and dinitrogen trioxide) in the small volume comprised by cellular membranes. Even so, these reactive species are diffusible and their ultimate fate will depend on the reactivity towards available substrates rather than on physical barriers. The acceleration of •NO autoxidation by biological hydrophobic phases may thus be a general phenomenon that increases in importance in cases of •NO overproduction. IUBMB Life, 59: 243-248, 2007