Nitric oxide synthase immunoreactivity in the rat, mouse, cat and squirrel monkey spinal cord

Neuroscience. 1993 Jun;54(4):845-57. doi: 10.1016/0306-4522(93)90579-5.


The distribution of nitric oxide synthase-immunoreactive neurons was examined in the spinal cord of rats, mice, cats and squirrel monkeys at the light microscopic level. Some sections were processed for choline acetyltransferase immunoreactivity. Double-labeling techniques were used to assess possible co-localization of nitric oxide synthase and choline acetyltransferase immunoreactivity in the same spinal neurons. Nitric oxide synthase-immunoreactive neurons were concentrated in three fairly well-defined regions of the spinal cord of all species studied: (i) the intermediolateral cell column of the thoracic and sacral segments, (ii) lamina X of all segments, and (iii) the superficial layers of the dorsal horn of all segments. A few nitric oxide synthase-immunoreactive neurons were scattered in the deeper laminae and the ventral horn. There were fewer nitric oxide synthase-positive neurons in monkey spinal lamina X and dorsal horn than in similar locations of rodents and felines. Double-staining showed that not all choline acetyltransferase-positive neurons in the intermediate cell column and lamina X were nitric oxide synthase-immunoreactive. In the ventral horn, choline acetyltransferase-positive neurons (presumed motoneurons) were nitric oxide synthase-negative. In addition to cell bodies, nitric oxide synthase-positive fibers were scattered in the dorsal, lateral and ventral horns of all species. Finally, punctate nitric oxide synthase-immunoreactive fibers were seen traversing the dorsal, lateral and ventral white matter, and reaching the respective gray matter. The present study shows that, in spite of quantitative differences, the pattern of distribution of nitric oxide synthase-positive neurons in the spinal cord was similar across the four species. The concentration of nitric oxide synthase-positive neurons in the autonomic nuclei and laminae I, II and X of all four species underscores a prominent role of these neurons in visceral and sensory functions.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Oxidoreductases / immunology
  • Amino Acid Oxidoreductases / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase / immunology
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase / metabolism
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Saimiri
  • Species Specificity
  • Spinal Cord / anatomy & histology
  • Spinal Cord / enzymology*
  • Spinal Cord / immunology


  • Nitric Oxide Synthase
  • Amino Acid Oxidoreductases
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase