Increased ventilation in response to hypoxia is essential for survival and has been investigated for over a century, but the fundamental biochemistry behind this response remains unclear. In September 13 Nature, Andrew Lipton and colleagues from University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky, show that S-nitrosothiols (SNOs — molecules related to nitric oxide) signal the brain ventilatory response to hypoxia and are of central importance to the regulation of breathing.

In a series of studies using rats, Lipton et al. demonstrated that increased breathing (minute ventilation) is controlled in part by SNOs acting on the nucleus tractus solitarius in the brainstem. This activity is mediated by S-nitrosoglutathione, and is activated by γ-glutamyl transpeptidase (Nature 2001, 413:171-174).

They suggest that the demonstration of the involvement of SNOs in ventilatory signaling provides novel targets for the development of new treatments for sleep apnoea.

In addition, these data could alter...

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