The role of nitric oxide (NO) in control of hypothalamic-pituitary function

Rev Bras Biol. 1996 Dec;56 Su 1 Pt 1:105-12.


Neurons containing neural nitric oxide synthase (nNOS) are found in various locations in the hypothalamus and, in particular, in the paraventricular and supraoptic nuclei with axons which project to the median eminence and extend into the neural lobe where the highest concentrations of NOS are found in the rat. Furthermore, nNOS is also located in folliculostellate cells and LH gonadotropes in the anterior pituitary gland. To define the role of NO in the release of hypothalamic peptides and pituitary hormones, we injected an inhibitor of NOS, Ng-monomethyl-L-arginine (NMMA) or a releasor of NO, nitroprusside (NP) into the third ventricle (3V) of conscious castrate rats and determined the effect on the release of various pituitary hormones. In vitro, we incubated medial basal hypothalamic (MBH) fragments and studied inhibitors of NO synthase and also releasors of NO. The results indicate that NOergic neurons play an important role in stimulating the release of corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH), luteinizing hormone releasing-hormone (LHRH), prolactin-RH's, particularly oxytocin, growth hormone-RH (GHRH) and somatostatin, but not FSH-releasing factor from the hypothalamus. NO stimulates the release of LHRH, which induces sexual behavior, and causes release of LH from the pituitary gland. The intrahypothalamic pathway by which NO controls LHRH release is as follows: glutamergic neurons synapse with noradrenergic terminals in the MBH which release nonepinephrine (NE) that acts on alpha 1 receptors on the NOergic neuron to increase intracellular free Ca++ which combines with calmodulin to activate NOS. The NOS diffuses to the LHRH terminal and activates guanylate cyclase (GC), cyclooxygenase and lipoxygenase causing release of LHRH via release of cyclic GMP, PGE2 and leukotrienes, respectively. Alcohol and cytokines can block LHRH release by blocking the activation of cyclooxygenase and lipoxygenase without interfering with the activation of GC. GABA also blocks the response of the LHRH neurons to NO and recent experiments indicate that granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GMCSF) blocks the response of the LHRH neuron to NP by activation of GABA neurons since the blockade can be reversed by the competitive inhibitor of GABAa receptors, bicuculine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone / physiology
  • Animals
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone / physiology
  • Hypothalamic Hormones / physiology*
  • Hypothalamus / physiology*
  • Nitric Oxide / physiology*
  • Oxytocin / physiology
  • Pituitary Gland / physiology*
  • Rats
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / physiology


  • Hypothalamic Hormones
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone
  • Oxytocin
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone