Distribution of Nitrergic Neurons in the Dorsal Root Ganglia of the Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)



Dorsal root ganglia (DRGs) contain the cell bodies of primary afferent neurons that transmit sensory information from the periphery into the spinal cord. Distinct populations of DRG neurons have been characterized by a variety of different immunohistochemical markers. A subpopulation of ganglionic neurons containing neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS), an enzyme known to generate nitric oxide, has been detected in a number of mammalian species. Despite previous studies, no information is known on the presence and exact distribution of nNOS-immunoreactive neurons in the DRGs of the bottlenose dolphin. In this investigation, immunoperoxidase for nNOS was used to determine the distribution and the perikaryal size of nitrergic neurons in the DRGs of this species. Double immunofluorescence protocol was used to determine the percentage of nNOS-immunoreactive (IR) neurons over the total primary afferent neurons. In addition, double immunostaining was used to verify whether there was colocalization of nNOS with substance P (SP). In all DRGs, a subpopulation of small- and medium-sized neurons (about 9%) exhibited nNOS immunoreactivity. Data analysis revealed that the majority of nNOS-IR neurons (81.3%) expressed SP. The density of nNOS-immunoreactive and nNOS/SP-double immunopositive cells was relatively constant throughout the ganglia. However, as observed in others mammals, the number of nitrergic neurons decreased in the caudalmost DRGs. Our results, in conjunction with previous observations, suggest that nNOS-IR neurons may be involved in the afferent transmission of visceral and nociceptive information as well as in the regulation of the vascular tone. Anat Rec,, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.