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Brain Res Rev. 2007 Dec;56(2):403-26. Epub 2007 Oct 22.

A critical survey on nitric oxide synthase expression and nitric oxide function in the retinotectal system.

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  • 1Instituto de Biofísica Carlos Chagas Filho, Instituto de Ciências Biomédicas, Centro de Ciências da Saúde, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Cidade Universitária, Ilha do Fundão, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.


The ongoing research on the roles of the gas nitric oxide (NO) in the nervous system has demonstrated its involvement in neurotransmission, synaptic plasticity, learning, excitotoxicity, neurodegenerative diseases and regulation of the cerebral blood flow. Thus, this molecule has been currently considered an important neuromodulator in CNS. Studies carried out in the visual system, particularly in the retinotectal component, have contributed to this current concept about NO. In the present work, we reviewed critically current data about nitric oxide synthase (NOS) expression in the superior colliculus/optic tectum, as well as the roles of NO in the formation of the retinotopic map and in synaptic plasticity. Several vertebrate species have been used in studies about the NOS expression in the retinotectal system and most of the available results are in agreement with the involvement of NO in the developmental refinement of the retinotectal projections, and its role as a neuromodulator of synaptic function during the processing of visual information. However, the few studies about the functional linkage between NOS expression/NO synthesis and retinotectal topographic refinement/tectal synaptic plasticity are not conclusive and/or sometimes inconsistent, indicating that more experimental data are necessary to improve the understanding about NO functions in this visual subsystem. Predictive models for the involvement of NO as a retrograde messenger in the developmental retinotectal refinement are discussed.

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