Sepsis is one of the leading causes of acute kidney injury (AKI), and several mechanisms including microcirculatory alterations, oxidative stress, and endothelial cell dysfunction are involved. Nitric oxide (NO) is one of the common elements to all these mechanisms. Although all three nitric oxide synthase (NOS) isoforms are constitutively expressed within the kidneys, they contribute in different ways to the nitrergic signaling. While the endothelial (eNOS) and neuronal (nNOS) isoforms are likely to be the main sources of NO under basal conditions and participates in the regulation of renal hemodynamics, the inducible isoform (iNOS) is dramatically increased in conditions such as sepsis. The overexpression of iNOS in the renal cortex causes a shunting of blood to this region, with consequent medullary ischemia in sepsis. Differences in the vascular reactivity among different vascular beds may also help to explain renal failure in this condition. While most of the vessels present vasoplegia and do not respond to vasoconstrictors, renal microcirculation behaves differently from nonrenal vascular beds, displaying similar constrictor responses in control and septic conditions. The selective inhibition of iNOS, without affecting other isoforms, has been described as the ideal scenario. However, iNOS is also constitutively expressed in the kidneys and the NO produced by this isoform is important for the immune defense. In this sense, instead of a direct iNOS inhibition, targeting the NO effectors such as guanylyl cyclase, potassium channels, peroxynitrite, and S-nitrosothiols, may be a more interesting approach in sepsis-AKI and further investigation is warranted.

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