Localization and characterization of nitric oxide synthase in the rat suprachiasmatic nucleus: Evidence for a nitrergic plexus in the biological clock

Dong Chen, William J. Hurst, Jian M. Ding, Lia E. Faiman, Bernd Mayer, Martha U. Gillette

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Behavioral and electrophysiological evidence indicates that the biological clock in the hypothalamic suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) can be reset at night through release of glutamate from the retinohypothalamic tract and subsequent activation of nitric oxide synthase (NOS). However, previous studies using NADPH-diaphorase staining or immunocytochemistry to localize NOS found either no or only a few positive cells in the SCN. By monitoring conversion of L-[3H]arginine to L-[3H]-citrulline, this study demonstrates that extracts of SCN tissue exhibit NOS specific activity comparable to that of rat cerebellum. The enzymatic reaction requires the presence of NADPH and is Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent. To distinguish the neuronal isoform (nNOS; type I) from the endothelial isoform (type III), the enzyme activity was assayed over a range of pH values. The optimal pH for the reaction was 6.7, a characteristic value for nNOS. No difference in nNOS levels was seen between SCN collected in day versus night, either by western blot or by enzyme activity measurement. Confocal microscopy revealed for the first time a dense plexus of cell processes stained for nNOS. These data demonstrate that neuronal fibers within the rat SCN express abundant nNOS and that the level of the enzyme does not vary temporally. The distribution and quantity of nNOS support a prominent regulatory role for this nitrergic component in the SCN.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)855-861
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Neurochemistry
Volume68
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1997

Keywords

  • Circadian rhythms
  • Confocal microscopy
  • Nitric oxide synthase
  • Rat
  • Suprachiasmatic nucleus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

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