Nitric oxide synthase-containing cells in the retina, pigmented epithelium, choroid, and sclera of the chick eye

J Comp Neurol. 1999 Mar 1;405(1):1-14. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1096-9861(19990301)405:1<1::aid-cne1>;2-u.


Nitric oxide is a nonconventional neurotransmitter that is produced as needed by the enzyme nitric oxide synthase (NOS). NOS has been detected in numerous neural structures, including distinct populations of retinal neurons in a variety of vertebrate species. The purpose of this study was to identify NOS-containing cells in the retina and extraretinal ocular tissues of hatched chicks. NOS was detected in frozen sections by using nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH)-diaphorase histochemistry and antisera to neuronal NOS. In the retina, NADPH-diaphorase and NOS immunolabelling were present in four subtypes of amacrine cells, some ganglion cells, efferent fibers, efferent target cells, and neuronal processes in both plexiform layers, whereas diaphorase alone was detected in photoreceptor ellipsoids and Müller cells. In addition, NADPH-diaphorase and immunoreactive NOS were detected in axon bundles and innervation to vascular smooth muscle in the choroid, whereas stromal and endothelial cells in the choroid, scleral chondrocytes, and the retinal pigmented epithelium contained only NADPH-diaphorase. The excitotoxin quisqualate destroyed all but one subtype of NOS-immunoreactive amacrine cell and caused increased NADPH-diaphorase activity in Müller cells. We conclude that nitric oxide is produced by many different cells in the chick eye, including retinal amacrine and ganglion cells, Müller cells, retinal pigmented epithelium, and cells in the choroid, and likely has a broad range of visual and regulatory functions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chickens / anatomy & histology
  • Chickens / metabolism*
  • Choroid / cytology
  • Choroid / enzymology
  • Efferent Pathways / physiology
  • Eye / cytology
  • Eye / enzymology*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • NADPH Dehydrogenase / analysis
  • Nerve Fibers / enzymology
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / analysis*
  • Pigment Epithelium of Eye / cytology
  • Pigment Epithelium of Eye / enzymology
  • Retina / cytology
  • Retina / enzymology
  • Sclera / cytology
  • Sclera / enzymology


  • Nitric Oxide Synthase
  • NADPH Dehydrogenase