18 December 1998
The gas nitric oxide (NO) is an important messenger in brain signaling. Along with many other functions, NO is thought to influence the expression and/or release of various hypothalamic hormones (corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) and vasopressin). To learn more about the role of NO in neuroendocrine mechanisms, we studied in mutant mice lacking neuronal isoform of NO synthase (nNOS) the cellular expression of CRH, neurophysin (the carrier protein of vasopressin/oxytocin) and pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC), as well as of the POMC-derived peptides β-endorphin (β-END), α-melanocyte-stimulating hormone (α-MSH) and corticotropin (ACTH) by use of immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization. Additionally, the remaining NO-generating capacities of the nNOS minus mice were investigated by NADPH-diaphorase histochemistry and citrulline immunohistochemistry as well as by immunohistochemical localization and Western blot analysis of endothelial NOS (eNOS) and nNOS isoforms. Amongst all hypothalamic peptides under investigation, only β-END was found to be altered in mutant mice. A morphometric analysis of β-END producing neurons of the arcuate nucleus revealed that significantly less cells were immunoreactive in mutant mice, whereas the expression of the precursor POMC as well as of other POMC-derived peptides was found to be unchanged. In addition to that, fewer β-END-immunoreactive fibers were found in the paraventricular nucleus of nNOS minus mice in comparison to wild-type animals. Hence, the reduction of hypothalamic β-END is probably a posttranslational event that might reflect a disturbed endorphinergic innervation of those hypothalamic neurons which normally express nNOS.