In vivo studies of the cerebral glutamate receptor/NO/cGMP pathway

Prog Neurobiol. 1999 May;58(1):89-120. doi: 10.1016/s0301-0082(98)00077-x.


Overwhelming evidence indicates that the glutamate/nitric oxide (NO) synthase/soluble guanylyl cyclase system is of primary importance in a variety of physiological and pathological processes of the brain. Most of our knowledge on this neurochemical pathway derives from in vitro and ex vivo studies but the recent improvement of microdialysis techniques combined with extremely sensitive measurements of the amplified end-product cyclic GMP (cGMP) has given new impulses to the investigation of this cascade of events, its modulation by neurotransmitters and its functional relevance, in a living brain. The first reports, appeared in the early 90's, have demonstrated that microdialysis monitoring of cGMP in the extracellular environment of the cerebellum and hippocampus exactly reflects what is expected to occur at the intracellular level; thus, in vivo extracellular cGMP is sensitive to NO-synthase and soluble guanylyl cyclase inhibitors, can be increased by NO-donors or phosphodiesterase blockers and is modulated by glutamate receptor stimulation in a NO-dependent fashion. Since then, other microdialysis studies have been reported showing that the brain NO synthase/guanylyl cyclase pathway is mainly controlled by NMDA, AMPA and metabotropic glutamate receptors but can be also influenced by other transmitters (GABA, acetylcholine, neuropeptides) through polysynaptic circuits interacting with the glutamatergic system. The available data indicate that this technique, applied to freely-moving animals and combined with behavioural tests, could be useful to get a better insight into the functional roles played by NO and cGMP in physiological and pathological situations such as learning, memory formation, epilepsy, cerebral ischemia and neurodegenerative diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Chemistry / physiology
  • Cerebral Cortex / chemistry
  • Cerebral Cortex / metabolism*
  • Cyclic GMP / metabolism*
  • Hippocampus / chemistry
  • Hippocampus / metabolism*
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Glutamate / metabolism*


  • Receptors, Glutamate
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Cyclic GMP