Distribution of nitric oxide synthase in rat dorsal vagal complex and effects of microinjection of nitric oxide compounds upon gastric motor function

Krowicki, Z.K.; Sharkey, K.A.; Serron, S.C.; Nathan, N.A.; Hornby, P.J.

Journal of Comparative Neurology 377(1): 49-69


ISSN/ISBN: 0021-9967
PMID: 8986872
DOI: 10.1002/(sici)1096-9861(19970106)377:1<49::aid-cne6>3.0.co;2-j
Accession: 008491650

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Nitric oxide (NO) has received attention as a vagal nonadrenergic-noncholinergic (NANC) mediator of gastrointestinal relaxation. The dorsal vagal complex (DVC) is the primary hindbrain site of vagal control of the gastrointestinal tract, and yet the subnuclear distribution of NO and its physiological effects have not been analyzed in this nucleus. Therefore, this study estimates the relative number of NO synthase (NOS)-containing neurons in subnuclear regions of the DVC, identifies NOS-containing vagal abdominal preganglionic neurons in the dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus, and defines a role of NO in the DVC in control of gastric motor function. The location of NADPH-diaphorase-positive staining (a marker of NOS activity) and NOS immunoreactivity overlap in the DVC. In the dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus there are positively stained cells caudal to the obex and at its most rostral extent, but not at the intermediate level. Intraperitoneal fluorogold combined with NADPH-diaphorase activity labels approximately 5% and 15% of fluorogold-immunoreactive cells in the caudal and rostral dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus, respectively. Thus, a portion of NOS-containing neurons are preganglionic vagal neurons projecting to the abdominal viscera. In the nucleus tractus solitarius, the majority of NADPH-diaphorase-positive cells are within the centralis, medial, and ventral/ventrolateral subnuclei. Fiber/terminal staining is present in the subnucleus centralis, subnucleus gelatinosus, subpostremal zone, and the medial nucleus tractus solitarius. The presence of NOS terminal staining implicates NO in afferent control of gastric function in the DVC (e.g., vago-vagal circuits in subnucleus gelatinosus). To determine a role of NO in the DVC, NO-related agents were microinjected into the DVC in alpha-chloralose-anesthetized rats while recording indices of gastric motor function. L-Arginine, microinjected into the DVC, significantly decreases intragastric pressure (-2.2 +- 0.4 cm-2, N = 12), and this effect is abolished by vagotomy. Microinjection of an NOS inhibitor, N-G-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester, increases intragastric pressure (1.9 +- 0.7 cm-2, N = 10), with the greatest effect in the DVC rostral to the obex. Overall, it was concluded that tonic release of NO in the DVC mediates gastric relaxation, at least in anesthetized animals, and NOS-containing preganglionic neurons in the dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus may be "command" NANC neurons which control a variety of gastrointestinal functions.