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Learn Mem. 1999 Jan-Feb;6(1):63-76.

On the respective roles of nitric oxide and carbon monoxide in long-term potentiation in the hippocampus.

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Center for Neurobiology and Behavior, College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, New York, New York 10032, USA.


Perfusion of hippocampal slices with an inhibitor nitric oxide (NO) synthase blocked induction of long-term potentiation (LTP) produced by a one-train tetanus and significantly reduced LTP by a two-train tetanus, but only slightly reduced LTP by a four-train tetanus. Inhibitors of heme oxygenase, the synthetic enzyme for carbon monoxide (CO), significantly reduced LTP by either a two-train or four-train tetanus. These results suggest that NO and CO are both involved in LTP but may play somewhat different roles. One possibility is that NO serves a phasic, signaling role, whereas CO provides tonic, background stimulation. Another possibility is that NO and CO are phasically activated under somewhat different circumstances, perhaps involving different receptors and second messengers. Because NO is known to be activated by stimulation of NMDA receptors during tetanus, we investigated the possibility that CO might be activated by stimulation of metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs). Consistent with this idea, long-lasting potentiation by the mGluR agonist tACPD was blocked by inhibitors of heme oxygenase but not NO synthase. Potentiation by tACPD was also blocked by inhibitors of soluble guanylyl cyclase (a target of both NO and CO) or cGMP-dependent protein kinase, and guanylyl cyclase was activated by tACPD in hippocampal slices. However, biochemical assays indicate that whereas heme oxygenase is constitutively active in hippocampus, it does not appear to be stimulated by either tetanus or tACPD. These results are most consistent with the possibility that constitutive (tonic) rather than stimulated (phasic) heme oxygenase activity is necessary for potentiation by tetanus or tACPD, and suggest that mGluR activation stimulates guanylyl cyclase phasically through some other pathway.

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