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Role of nitric oxide in implantation and menstruation

Hum Reprod. 2000 Aug;15 Suppl 3:96-111. doi: 10.1093/humrep/15.suppl_3.96.


Nitric oxide (NO) is a major paracrine mediator of various biological processes, including vascular functions and inflammation. In blood vessels, NO is produced by the low-input constitutive endothelial NO synthase (eNOS) and is a potent vasodilator and platelet aggregation inhibitor. The inducible NOS isoform (iNOS) is capable of producing NO at high concentrations which have pro-inflammatory properties. Immunohistochemical and molecular studies of endometrial NOS expression, as well as animal experiments with NOS inhibitors, indicate that NO plays an important role in endometrial functions such as endometrial receptivity, implantation and menstruation. In rodents, both iNOS and eNOS are highly up-regulated in the implantation sites, and NOS inhibitors show synergistic effects with antiprogestins in inhibiting the establishment of pregnancy. In the human endometrium, eNOS have been localized in the glandular epithelium and in endometrial microvascular endothelium, primarily during the luteal phase. iNOS has been found in the endometrial epithelium during menstruation, in immunocompetent endometrial cells, and in decidualized stromal cells. In primates, NO may be involved in the initiation and maintenance of menstrual bleeding by inducing tissue breakdown and vascular relaxation as well as by inhibiting platelet aggregation. Endometrium-derived NO may also play a role in myometrial relaxation during menstruation. These studies open up new applications for NO-donating and -inhibiting agents in uterine disorders. NO donors may be useful in the treatment of dysmenorrhoea and for promoting fertility. Antiprogestins, progesterone receptor modulators and iNOS inhibitors may find applications in the treatment and prevention of abnormal uterine bleeding.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Embryo Implantation / physiology*
  • Endometrium / enzymology
  • Estrogens / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Menstruation / physiology*
  • Nitric Oxide / physiology*
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / physiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Progesterone / physiology
  • Uterine Hemorrhage
  • Uterus / immunology


  • Estrogens
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Progesterone
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase