Nitroglycerin metabolism in vascular tissue: Role of glutathione S-transferases and relationship between NO(·) and NO2- formation

M. A. Kurz, T. D. Boyer, R. Whalen, T. E. Peterson, D. G. Harrison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


Nitroglycerin is a commonly employed pharmacological agent which produces vasodilatation by release of nitric oxide (NO(·)). The mechanism by which nitroglycerin releases NO(·) remains undefined. Recently, glutathione S-transferases have been implicated as important contributors to this process. They are known to release NO2- from nitroglycerin, but have not been shown to release NO(·). The present studies were designed to examine the role of endogenous glutathione S-transferases in this metabolic process. Homogenates of dog carotid artery were incubated anaerobically with nitroglycerin, and NO(·) and NO2- production was determined by chemiluminescence. The role of glutathione S-transferases was studied by incubating homogenates with nitroglycerin in the presence of 1 mM GSH or 1 mM S-hexylglutathione, a potent inhibitor of glutathione S-transferases. Homogenates released 163 pmol of NO(·)/h per mg of protein from nitroglycerin, and 2370 pmol of NO2-/h per mg. Adding GSH decreased NO(·) production by 82% and increased NO2- production by 98%. S-Hexylglutathione inhibited glutathione S-transferase activity by 96% and decreased NO2- production by 78%, but had no effect on NO(·) release. A linear relationship between glutathione S-transferase activity and NO2- production was observed, whereas glutathione S-transferase activity and NO(·) release were unrelated. Western-blot analysis demonstrated that dog carotid vascular smooth muscle contained Pi and Mu forms of glutathione S-transferases, with a predominance of the former. Purified preparations of human Pi and rat Mu isoforms metabolized nitroglycerin only to NO2- and not to NO(·). On the basis of these findings, we conclude that (1) glutathione S-transferases do not contribute to the bioconversion of nitroglycerin to NO(·), but instead act as a degradative pathway for nitroglycerin, and (2) the release of NO(·) from nitroglycerin is not dependent on the formation of NO2-.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)545-550
Number of pages6
JournalBiochemical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1993

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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