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Front Neural Circuits. 2012 Aug 9;6:51. doi: 10.3389/fncir.2012.00051. eCollection 2012.

The complex contribution of NOS interneurons in the physiology of cerebrovascular regulation.

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Department of Pharmacology, Université de Montréal Montreal, QC, Canada.


Following the discovery of the vasorelaxant properties of nitric oxide (NO) by Furchgott and Ignarro, the finding by Bredt and coll. of a constitutively expressed NO synthase in neurons (nNOS) led to the presumption that neuronal NO may control cerebrovascular functions. Consequently, numerous studies have sought to determine whether neuraly-derived NO is involved in the regulation of cerebral blood flow (CBF). Anatomically, axons, dendrites, or somata of NO neurons have been found to contact the basement membrane of blood vessels or perivascular astrocytes in all segments of the cortical microcirculation. Functionally, various experimental approaches support a role of neuronal NO in the maintenance of resting CBF as well as in the vascular response to neuronal activity. Since decades, it has been assumed that neuronal NO simply diffuses to the local blood vessels and produce vasodilation through a cGMP-PKG dependent mechanism. However, NO is not the sole mediator of vasodilation in the cerebral microcirculation and is known to interact with a myriad of signaling pathways also involved in vascular control. In addition, cerebrovascular regulation is the result of a complex orchestration between all components of the neurovascular unit (i.e., neuronal, glial, and vascular cells) also known to produce NO. In this review article, the role of NO interneuron in the regulation of cortical microcirculation will be discussed in the context of the neurovascular unit.


GABA; astrocyte; autoregulation; cerebral blood flow; interneuron; magnetic resonance imaging; neurovascular coupling; nitric oxide

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