Drugs targeting nitric oxide synthase for migraine treatment

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Ample evidence that nitric oxide (NO) is a causative molecule in migraine has encouraged research to develop drugs that target the NO-cGMP cascade for migraine treatment. NO synthase (NOS) inhibition is an innovative therapeutic principle.Areas covered: This paper reviews the rationale underlying NOS inhibition in migraine treatment. It also provides a review on the efficacy and safety data for NOS inhibitors (nonselective NOS inhibitor L-N G-methyl-arginine hydrochloride [L-NMMA], selective inducible NOS [iNOS] inhibitors GW273629 and GW274150, combined neuronal NOS [nNOS] inhibitor and 5-HT1B/1D receptor agonist NXN-188) in acute or preventive migraine treatment.Expert opinion: The data highlighted herein, from four placebo-controlled trials and 1 open-labeled clinical trial using 4 different NOS inhibitors on a total of 705 patients, provide convincing efficacy data only for the nonselective NOS inhibitor L-NMMA. Unfortunately, this NOS inhibitor raises cardiovascular safety concerns and has an unfavorable pharmacokinetic profile. As experimental studies predicted, iNOS inhibitors are ineffective in migraine. Still, upcoming selective nNOS inhibitors are a hope for migraine treatment, with the nNOS isoform being most clearly involved in trigeminovascular transmission and central sensitization. Future studies should help to clarify whether NOS inhibition is equally fruitful in acute and preventive treatment. It should also clarify if nNOS inhibition holds promise as a therapeutic tool for the treatment of chronic migraine and other forms of headache.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1141-1148
Number of pages8
JournalExpert Opinion on Investigational Drugs
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Headache
  • Migraine
  • Nitric oxide
  • Nitric oxide synthases inhibitors
  • Treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)
  • Medicine(all)


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