Nitric oxide supersensitivity: a possible molecular mechanism of migraine pain

J Olesen, H K Iversen, L L Thomsen


Nitroglycerin, which may be regarded as a prodrug for nitric oxide, induces a mild to moderate headache in healthy subjects. In order to study whether migraine patients are more sensitive to nitric oxide than non-migrainous subjects, four different doses of intravenous nitroglycerin were given in a double blind design to 17 migraine patients, 17 age and sex matched healthy controls and 9 subjects with tension-type headache. The nitroglycerin-induced headache was significantly more severe in migraine sufferers, lasted longer and fulfilled diagnostic criteria for migraine more often. We have previously shown a similar supersensitivity to histamine which in human cerebral arteries activates endothelial H1 receptors and causes endothelial production of nitric oxide. Migraine patients are thus supersensitive to exogenous nitric oxide from nitroglycerin as well as to endothelially produced nitric oxide. It is suggested that nitric oxide may be partially or completely responsible for migraine pain.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number8
Pages (from-to)1027-30
Number of pages4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1993
Externally publishedYes


  • Adult
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Headache/chemically induced
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Migraine Disorders/physiopathology
  • Muscle Contraction
  • Nitric Oxide/physiology
  • Reference Values


Dive into the research topics of 'Nitric oxide supersensitivity: a possible molecular mechanism of migraine pain'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this