Distribution of nitric oxide synthase and secretory role of exogenous nitric oxide in the isolated rat pancreas

Int J Pancreatol. 2001;29(2):77-84. doi: 10.1385/IJGC:29:2:077.


Background: Pancreatic production and in vivo effects of nitric oxide (NO) have been shown by several studies. In order to examine the direct actions of the NO donor sodium nitroprusside (SNP), this study used in vitro specimens of the rat pancreas where the distribution of neuronal nitric oxide synthase (NOS) and the secretory effects of SNP and the cyclic GMP (cGMP) analog 8-bromo cyclic GMP (8-Br cGMP) were investigated.

Methods: NO containing pancreatic nerves were visualized by NOS immunohistochemistry. Basal and stimulated amylase output from rat pancreatic segments was measured by an on-line fluorimetric method. Stimulation was achieved by either acetylcholine (ACh) or electrical field stimulation (EFS). Intracellular free calcium concentration ([Ca2+]i) was measured in dispersed pancreatic acinar cells.

Results: NOS containing nerves were demonstrated in the vicinity of pancreatic acini and blood vessels. SNP and 8-Br cGMP inhibited both basal and EFS evoked amylase output but failed to inhibit ACh induced amylase output. Basal [Ca2+]i was decreased by both SNP and 8-Br cGMP but neither SNP nor 8-Br cGMP influenced the ACh evoked increase in [Ca2+]i.

Conclusion: NO is well distributed in the rat exocrine pancreas. Exogenous nitric oxide may have a dual action in the isolated rat pancreas: Inhibition of basal amylase secretion in acinar cells and inhibition of ACh release from intrinsic nerve terminals. Both effects seem to be calcium dependent and possibly mediated by cGMP.

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholine / metabolism
  • Amylases / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Cyclic GMP / analogs & derivatives*
  • Cyclic GMP / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Male
  • Nitric Oxide / pharmacology*
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / analysis*
  • Nitroprusside / pharmacology
  • Pancreas / drug effects*
  • Pancreas / enzymology
  • Pancreas / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar


  • Nitroprusside
  • 8-bromocyclic GMP
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase
  • Amylases
  • Cyclic GMP
  • Acetylcholine
  • Calcium