NO sparks off chromatin: Tales of a multifaceted epigenetic regulator

Barbara Illi, Claudia Colussi, Annalisa Grasselli, Antonella Farsetti, Maurizio C. Capogrossi, Carlo Gaetano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The discovery of nitric oxide (NO) revealed its ambiguous nature, which is related to its pleiotropic activities that control the homeostasis of every organism from bacteria to mammals in several physiological and pathological situations. The wide range of action of NO basically depends on two features: 1) the variety of chemical reactions depending on NO, and 2) the differential cellular responses elicited by distinct NO concentrations. Despite the increasing body of knowledge regarding its chemistry, biology and NO-dependent signaling pathways, little information is available on the nuclear actions of NO in terms of gene expression regulation. Indeed, studies of a putative role for this diatomic compound in regulating chromatin remodeling are still in their infancy. Only recently has the role of NO in epigenetics emerged, and some of its putative epigenetic properties are still only hypothetical. In the present review, we discuss the current evidence for NO-related mechanisms of epigenetic gene expression regulation. We link some of the well known NO chemical reactions and metabolic processes (e.g., S-nitrosylation of thiols, tyrosine nitration, cGMP production) to chromatin modification and address the most recent, striking hypothesis about NO and the control of chromosomes structure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)344-352
Number of pages9
JournalPharmacology and Therapeutics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2009



  • Chromatin remodeling
  • Gene expression
  • Nitric oxide
  • S-nitrosylation
  • Tyr-nitration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)

Cite this

Illi, B., Colussi, C., Grasselli, A., Farsetti, A., Capogrossi, M. C., & Gaetano, C. (2009). NO sparks off chromatin: Tales of a multifaceted epigenetic regulator. Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 123(3), 344-352.