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October 9, 1996

The Discovery of Endothelium-Derived Relaxing Factor and Its Importance in the Identification of Nitric Oxide

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Pharmacology, State University of New York, Health Science Center at Brooklyn.

JAMA. 1996;276(14):1186-1188. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03540140074032

The discovery of endothelium-derived relaxing factor (EDRF) and its importance in the identification of nitric oxide (NO) originated with studies using rabbit aorta to examine drug-receptor interactions in vascular smooth muscle. Smooth muscle relaxation by acetylcholine and a number of other agonists was found to be dependent on the presence of endothelial cells, which, when stimulated by the agonist, released a diffusable, very labile, nonprostanoid substance, termed EDRF, that acted on vascular smooth muscle cells to activate relaxation. The characteristics of EDRF, when released from endothelial cells, were similar to the characteristics of NO. It is now established that EDRF, either as NO or some related nitrosyl substance, has a major role in a variety of important biological processes, including the regulation of vascular tone, local blood flow, and blood pressure, inhibition of platelet aggregation and adhesion, and involvement in postischemic reperfusion, memory function, and central nervous system degenerative diseases.