Our aim was to investigate whether nitric oxide synthase (NOS) isoforms, responsible for the generation of NO, are expressed during the healing of fractures.To localise the sites of expression compared with those in normal bone we made standardised, stabilised, unilateral tibial fractures in male Wistar rats. Immunostaining was used to determine the precise tissue localisation of the different NOS isoforms. Western blotting was used to assess expression of NOS isoform protein and L-citrulline assays for studies on NOS activity. Control tissue was obtained from both the contralateral uninjured limb and limbs of normal rats.
Immunohistochemistry showed increased expression of endothelial NOS (eNOS) to be strongest in the cortical blood vessels and in osteocytes in the early phase of fracture repair.Western blot and image analysis confirmed this initial increase. Significantly elevated calcium-dependent NOS activity was observed at day 1 after fracture.
Inducible NOS (iNOS) was localised principally in endosteal osteoblasts and was also seen in chondroblasts especially in the second week of fracture healing.Western blotting showed a reduction in iNOS during the early healing period. Significantly reduced calcium-independent NOS activity was also seen. No neuronal NOS was seen in either fracture or normal tissue.
Increased eNOS in bone blood vessels is likely to mediate the increased blood flow recognised during fracture healing.eNOS expression in osteocytes may occur in response to changes in either mechanical or local fluid shear stress. The finding that eNOS is increased and iNOS reduced in early healing of fractures may be important in their successful repair.
J Bone Joint Surg [Br] 1999;81-B:531-7.