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J Comp Neurol. 1998 Jun 1;395(2):217-30.

Nitric oxide synthase in the thoracic ganglia of the locust: distribution in the neuropiles and morphology of neurones.

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Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, England.


Nitric oxide signaling is implicated in olfactory and visual pathways within the insect brain. In contrast, little is known about the distribution and function of nitric oxide synthase (NOS) in the ventral nerve cord. This study uses NADPH diaphorase histochemistry to describe the anatomy of NOS-containing neurones and the neuropilar distribution of NOS in the thoracic nerve cord of the locust. It is shown for the first time that mechanosensory neuropiles receive innervation from NOS-containing interneurones. Different cells innervate exteroceptive and proprioceptive projection neuropiles. In the projection neuropiles of tactile afferents, a dense meshwork of NOS-containing fibres is formed by collaterals of paired intersegmental axons that run through the entire thoracic nerve cord, innervating exclusively these exteroceptive neuropiles. In neuropile areas where proprioceptive afferents terminate, stained fibres are comparatively sparse and originate from local interneurones. The prothoracic ganglion showed strongly stained dense fibres in the dorsal neuropile that were not seen in the other neuromeres. This differential NOS-expression can be related to the branching pattern of a ventral group of neurones that was different in each neuromere. All thoracic neuromeres and the abdominal neuromeres A2 and A3 of the metathoraic ganglion contained a previously undescribed type of unpaired median neurone with bilaterally ascending and descending intersegmental projections that stained strongly for NOS. The distribution of NOS found in this study suggests a novel role for nitric oxide in an early stage of mechanosensory information processing in all thoracic neuromeres and an additional role in the prothoracic ganglion, which might be related to behavioural specializations of the forelegs.

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