Nitric oxide donors guide

Use this guide to pick the appropriate nitric oxide (NO) donors for your experiments and say goodbye to contradictory results.

The structural variation between NO donors has led to remarkably varied chemical reactivities and NO-release mechanisms, which has contributed to the contradictory and confusing results seen in NO literature.

In general, NO donors release NO through three kinds of mechanisms:

  1. Donating NO spontaneously, which releases NO through thermal or photochemical self-decomposition
  2. Enzymatic oxidation where NO donors need metabolic activation for NO to be released
  3. Releasing NO by chemical reaction with acids, alkalis, metals, or thiols


Chemical classCompounds Why choose this compound
Diazeniumdiolate*DEA NONOate (ab145197)Use for rapid release of NO. Short-acting (half-life of 2 min at pH 7.4, 37oC)
PAPA NONOate (ab145196)Half-life of 15 min at pH 7.4, 37oC.
Spermine NONOate (ab144522)Half-life of 40 min at pH 7.4, 37oC.
DPTA NONOate (ab145198)Half-life of 3 hours at pH 7.4, 37oC.
DETA NONOate (ab144627)Use for prolonged release of NO. Half-life of 20 hrs at pH 7.4, 37oC.
SyndnonimineSIN-1 (ab141525)To study peroxynitrite and other RNOS under physiological conditions. Produces both NO and superoxide spontaneously.

*NO release is pH and temperature sensitive.

Enzymatic oxidation

Chemical classCompounds Why choose this compound
Organic nitratesNitroglycerin/GTNClinically proven vasodilator used to treat angina and acute myocardial infarction.
Inorganic nitroso compoundSodium nitroprusside (SNP, ab145732))Another clinically proven vasodilator. Caution: SNP may also release cyanide and free iron1. Using SNP to investigate NO in biological systems is problematic.

Chemical reaction

Chemical classCompounds Why choose this compound
S-nitrosothiolSNAP (ab120014)
SNAP has been extensively used in research. Note: Possibly act via RS-NO rather than NO itself. Also requires trace amount of Cu2+ to catalyse the reaction2.

S-nitrosating agent that also acts as an NO donor. Has multiple therapeutic applications3.

While various NO-donors have been used extensively in NO research, many NO-donors remain uncharacterized. 

For the best results, where possible, use NO probes to check for NO release in your experimental setup. Diaminefluorescein (DAF-2) is a popular choice.


  1. Schroder, H. No nitric oxide for HO-1 from sodium nitroprusside. Mol. Pharmacol. 69, 1507–1509 (2006).

  2. McAninly, J., Williams, D. L. H., Askew, S. C., Butler, A. R. & Russell, C. Metal ion catalysis in nitrosothiol (RSNO) decomposition. J. Chem. Soc. Chem. Commun. 83, 1758 (1993).

  3. Broniowska, K. A., Diers, A. R., & Hogg, N. (2013). S-NITROSOGLUTATHIONE. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, 1830(5), 3173–3181 (2013).
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