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Keywords:

  • NO;
  • cGMP;
  • sensory processing;
  • mushroom bodies;
  • motor system;
  • development

Abstract

Nitric oxide (NO) is a membrane-permeant messenger molecule generated from the amino acid L-arginine. NO can activate soluble guanylyl cyclase leading to the formation of cyclic GMP (cGMP) in target cells. In the nervous system, NO/cGMP signalling is thought to play essential roles in synaptic plasticity during development and also in the mature animal. This paper examines biochemical, cell biological, and physiological investigations of NO/cGMP signalling in the nervous system of the locust, a commonly used neurobiological preparation. Biochemical investigations suggest that an identical enzyme is responsible for both NO synthase (NOS) and NADPH-diaphorase activity after tissue fixation. Immunocytochemical staining of an olfactory center in the locust brain shows that NOS-immunoreactivity colocalizes with NADPH-diaphorase at the cellular level. The cytochemical staining of NO donor and target cells in adult animals suggests functions in olfaction, vision, and sensorimotor integration. During development, NO is implicated in axonal outgrowth and synaptogenesis. The cellular distribution of NO-responsive cells in neural circuits reflects potential functions of NO as a retrograde synaptic messenger, as an intracellular messenger, and as a lateral diffusible messenger independent of conventional synaptic connectivity. Arch. Insect Biochem. Physiol. 48:100–110, 2001. © 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.