Mechanisms of nitrate tolerance

Ho Leung Fung, John Anthony Bauer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

99 Scopus citations


There is now little dispute that clinical tolerance of organic nitrates occurs, particularly when these drugs are used by themselves to treat patients with stable angina pectoris and congestive heart failure. Classical hypotheses of nitrate tolerance suggest the phenomenon to result from vascular depletion of critical sulfhydryl groups, which are necessary to bring about vasorelaxation from nitrates. While this mechanism of nitrate tolerance probably operates when isolated blood vessels are exposed to high concentrations of nitrate in vitro, there is little evidence to suggest that it contributes to clinical nitrate tolerance. Instead, emerging data suggest that nitrates can cause significant shifts in fluid distribution and secretion of neurohormonal factors that can modulate their vasorelaxant effects. use of angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors and diuretics in conjunction with nitrates may alleviate the development of tolerance, but the experience has not been universally favorable. Other receptor-effector systems that affect cardiovascular function, such as the adrenergic system, may also be affected by nitrate tolerance. The mechanisms of nitrate tolerance are therefore likely to be multifactorial, involving vascular biochemical changes, physiologic compensation, and possibly receptor regulation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)489-499
Number of pages11
JournalCardiovascular Drugs and Therapy
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1994


  • angina pectoris
  • congestive heart failure
  • nitroglycerin
  • organic nitrates
  • tolerance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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