Nitric oxide synthase and chemical coding in cat sympathetic postganglionic neurons

Neuroscience. 1995 Sep;68(1):255-64. doi: 10.1016/0306-4522(95)00143-7.


Nitric oxide synthase-like immunoreactivity was found in a subpopulation of sympathetic postganglionic neurons in the cat stellate and lower lumbar ganglia. In the ganglia of other segments such cells were rare. Double staining for tyrosine hydroxylase-like immunoreactivity and nitric oxide synthase-like immunoreactivity or the reduced nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate diaphorase reaction indicated that nitric oxide synthase-like immunoreactivity and reduced nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate diaphorase reactivity was always co-localized and was confined to tyrosine hydroxylase-negative (presumably cholinergic) ganglion cells, and was present in most of them. The occurrence of nitric oxide synthase in two subpopulations of cholinergic postganglionic neurons was investigated in triple staining experiments. Presumptive sudomotor neurons have been previously defined as scattered cells containing calcitonin gene-related peptide-like immunoreactivity, usually accompanied by vasoactive intestinal peptide-like immunoreactivity: 99% of these contained nitric oxide synthase. Presumptive muscle vasodilator neurons have been previously identified as clumped cells with strong vasoactive intestinal peptide-like immunoreactivity but no calcitonin gene-related peptide-like immunoreactivity: 70% of these contained nitric oxide synthase. Sweat glands were found in the paw pad skin surrounded by varicose fibres showing calcitonin gene-related peptide-like immunoreactivity and vasoactive intestinal peptide-like immunoreactivity, confirming previous work. Such fibres also stained for nitric oxide synthase-like immunoreactivity and reduced nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate diaphorase reactivity, although their staining was relatively weaker than in the corresponding cell bodies. Varicose fibres with the same chemical coding were also found around all large and most medium and small arteries in the paw skin as well as around arteriovenous anastomoses. Fibres with the muscle vasodilator coding (vasoactive intestinal peptide-like immunoreactivity without calcitonin gene-related peptide-like immunoreactivity) were not seen in paw skin. These results suggest that nitric oxide may act as a co-transmitter (with acetylcholine, substance P, vasoactive intestinal peptide and calcitonin gene-related peptide) in sudomotor neurons and (with acetylcholine and vasoactive intestinal peptide) in vasodilator neurons. Collateral branches of sudomotor neurons may innervate skin vessels, and release vasodilator transmitters including nitric oxide to cause the vasodilatation which provides the fluid supply for sweat formation. Alternatively, separate vasodilator neurons to skin may share the same chemical code as sudomotor neurons.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autonomic Fibers, Postganglionic / enzymology*
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide / metabolism
  • Cats
  • Ganglia, Sympathetic / cytology
  • Ganglia, Sympathetic / metabolism
  • NADPH Dehydrogenase / metabolism
  • Nerve Endings / metabolism
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / metabolism*
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / cytology
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / enzymology*
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / metabolism
  • Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide / metabolism


  • Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase
  • NADPH Dehydrogenase
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide