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Arch Histol Cytol. 2006 Mar;69(1):13-21.

Exposure to aluminium changes the NADPH-diaphorase/NPY pattern in the rat cerebral cortex.

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Department of Biomedical Sciences and Biotechnology, University of Brescia, Brescia, Italy.


Aluminium (Al) impairs the glutamate-nitric oxide-cGMP pathway and reduces the number of nitroxidergic neurons in the rat somatosensory cortex. To understand better the effect of the time of exposure, we monitored the effect of aluminium administration on nitroxidergic neurons, identified by NADPH-diaphorase (NADPH-d) or by nitric oxide synthase (NOS) staining, after 0.5, 1, 2, 3, 6 and 12 months of aluminium administration. Since neuropeptide Y (NPY) is known to be colocalised with nitric oxide synthase in cortical neurons, the aim of this work was to study the effects of Al administration on the cortical expression of NADPH-d, nNOS, and NPY. NADPH-d or NOS positive neurons were found scattered in the cortex where they constituted about 1% of all neurons. Double staining using NADPH-d and NPY showed that almost all nitroxidergic neurons were co-localised with NPY neurons (NADPH-d/NPY double stained neurons) whereas some neurons were stained only with NPY (NPY single stained neurons) ; these were more numerous than NADPH-d/NPY double stained neurons. Al significantly reduced NADPH-d and nNOS positive neurons in the cerebral cortex time dependently, with the greatest effect appearing after 3 months. Also measured was the integrated optical density (IOD) of nNOS positive neurons showing a significant decrease of NOS immunostaining even in the remaining NOS positive neurons. The double staining experiment exhibited a decrease in NADPH-d/NPY double stained neurons with an apparent increase in NPY single stained neurons; these then decreased after 6-12 months. On the whole, the results confirm that Al impairs nitroxidergic pathways time dependently; moreover, the transient increase in NPY single stained neurons from 1 to 3 months suggests that there is an intraneuronal down-regulation of NOS, without affecting neuronal viability. In addition, the decrease in the NPY system found at 6 and 12 months may indicate that Al affected nitroxidergic and NPY systems at different times.

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