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Microsc Res Tech. 2005 Sep;68(1):13-35.

Distribution of nitric oxide synthase immunoreactivity in the mouse brain.

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Rita Levi Montalcini Center for Brain Repair, Laboratory of Neuroendocrinology, Department of Anatomy, Pharmacology, and Forensic Medicine, University of Torino, Torino, Italy.


Nitric oxide (NO) is a gaseous intercellular messenger with a wide range of neural functions. NO is synthesized by activation of different isoforms of nitric oxide synthases (NOS). At present NOS immunoreactivity has been described in mouse brain in restricted and definite areas and no detailed mapping studies have yet been reported for NOS immunoreactivity. We have studied the distribution of neuronal NOS-containing neurons in the brain of three months male mice, using a specific commercial polyclonal antibody against the neuronal isoform of nitric oxide synthase (nNOS). Neuronal cell bodies exhibiting nNOS immunoreactivity were found in several distinct nuclei throughout the brain. The neurons that were positively stained exhibited different intensities of reaction. In some brain areas (i.e., cortex, striatum, tegmental nuclei) neurons were intensely stained in a Golgi-like fashion. In other regions, immunoreactive cells are moderately stained (i.e., magnocellular nucleus of the posterior commissure, amygdaloid nucleus, interpeduncular nucleus, lateral periaqueductal gray) or weakly stained (i.e., vascular organ of the lamina terminalis, hippocampus, inferior colliculus, reticular nucleus). In the mouse, the NO-producing system appears well developed and widely diffused. In particular, nNOS immunoreactive neurons seem chiefly present in several sensory pathways like all the nuclei of the olfactory system, as well as in many regions of the lymbic system. These data suggest a widespread role for the NO system in the mouse nervous system.

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