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Neuroendocrinology. 1995 Aug;62(2):187-97.

Histochemical localization of nitric oxide neurons in the hypothalamus: association with gonadotropin-releasing hormone neurons and co-localization with N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors.

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Department of Physiology and Endocrinology, Medical College of Georgia, Augusta 30912-3000, USA.


The neurotransmitter glutamate plays an important role in the control of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) secretion. Recent evidence suggests that the novel transmitter nitric oxide may also play a role in controlling GnRH release and may be an important mediator of glutamate effects. To explore the role of nitric oxide in these events, the present study determined the distribution of the enzyme which catalyzes nitric oxide production, nitric oxide synthase (NOS) in the hypothalamus, its association with GnRH neurons, and whether NOS neurons contain NMDA receptors. NOS was localized by staining hypothalamic sections from female rats for NADPH-diaphorase activity. Specific antibodies for GnRH and the NMDAR1 receptor subunit were used for double-staining to determine NOS association with GnRH neurons and the presence of NMDA R1 receptor subunits in hypothalamic NOS neurons. The studies showed intense NOS cell body and fiber staining in the organum vasculosum of the lamina terminalis (OVLT) where numerous GnRH cell bodies are located. Other major GnRH cell body sites such as the median preoptic nucleus (MPN) and medial preoptic area (MPOA) displayed moderate staining of NOS cell bodies and fibers. Intense NOS staining was also observed in the median eminence, ventromedial nucleus, paraventricular nucleus and supraoptic nucleus of the hypothalamus. While no GnRH neurons were found to double stain for NOS in the hypothalamus, GnRH neurons were frequently surrounded by NOS neurons in the OVLT, MPN and MPOA with potential contacts between NOS and GnRH neurons in these areas. In addition, there was significant overlap of GnRH and NOS fibers in the lateral portion of the internal zone of the median eminence where GnRH fibers and terminals converge. Double-staining studies for NADPH-diaphorase and NMDA R1 receptor subunit showed that many NOS neurons in the OVLT, MPOA, ventromedial nucleus, paraventricular nucleus and supraoptic nucleus co-localize the NMDA R1 receptor subunit. Localization of NMDA R1 receptor subunit immunoreactivity in B-NOS neurons in the hypothalamus was further confirmed by using combined immunohistochemistry-in situ hybridization. Finally, the functional importance of this co-localization was shown by the finding that central administration of a nitric oxide synthase inhibitor blocked the ability of NMDA to induce LH secretion. Taken as a whole, these studies provide evidence which support a role for nitric oxide as an important regulator of GnRH neurons in the female. They also suggest that hypothalamic NOS neurons are targets for glutamate regulation as evidenced by co-localization of the NMDA R1 receptor subunit.

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