Nitrite was once thought to be inert in human physiology. However, research over the past few decades has established a link between nitrite and the production of nitric oxide (NO) that is potentiated under hypoxic and acidic conditions. Under this new role nitrite acts as a storage pool for bioavailable NO. The NO so produced is likely to play important roles in decreasing platelet activation, contributing to hypoxic vasodilation and minimizing blood-cell adhesion to endothelial cells. Researchers have proposed multiple mechanisms for nitrite reduction in the blood. However, NO production in blood must somehow overcome rapid scavenging by hemoglobin in order to be effective. Here we review the role of red blood cell hemoglobin in the reduction of nitrite and present recent research into mechanisms that may allow nitric oxide and other reactive nitrogen signaling species to escape the red blood cell.

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Copyright © 2016 De Gruyter. This article first appeared in Biological Chemistry 398, no. 3 (2016), 319-329.

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