Nitric oxide (NO) is a colourless free radical gas, which has diverse and potentially opposing biological effects, depending on the local environment. The identification of NO and discovery of the mechanism of signalling are interesting tales on their own, leading to the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (1998) awarded to Murad, Furchgott and Ignarro. This article focuses on two very different – and important – consequences of the effects of NO on blood vessels: erectile dysfunction and pre-eclampsia.

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