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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Neuropeptides and nitric oxide synthase in the gill and the air-breathing organs of fishes.

Anatomical and histochemical studies have demonstrated that the bulk of autonomic neurotransmission in fish gill is attributed to cholinergic and adrenergic mechanisms (Nilsson. 1984. In: Hoar WS, Randall DJ, editors. Fish physiology, Vol. XA. Orlando: Academic Press. p 185-227; Donald. 1998. In: Evans DH, editor. The physiology of fishes, 2nd edition. Boca Raton: CRC Press. p 407-439). In many tissues, blockade of adrenergic and cholinergic transmission results in residual responses to nerve stimulation, which are termed NonAdrenergic, NonCholinergic (NANC). The discovery of nitric oxide (NO) has provided a basis for explaining many examples of NANC transmissions with accumulated physiological and pharmacological data indicating its function as a primary NANC transmitter.Little is known about the NANC neurotransmission, and studies on neuropeptides and NOS (Nitric Oxide Synthase) are very fragmentary in the gill and the air-breathing organs of fishes. Knowledge of the distribution of nerves and effects of perfusing agonists may help to understand the mechanisms of perfusion regulation in the gill (Olson. 2002. J Exp Zool 293:214-231).Air breathing as a mechanism for acquiring oxygen has evolved independently in several groups of fishes, necessitating modifications of the organs responsible for the exchange of gases. Aquatic hypoxia in freshwaters has been probably the more important selective force in the evolution of air breathing in vertebrates. Fishes respire with gills that are complex structures with many different effectors and potential control systems. Autonomic innervation of the gill has received considerable attention. An excellent review on branchial innervation includes Sundin and Nilsson's (2002. J Exp Zool 293:232-248) with an emphasis on the anatomy and basic functioning of afferent and efferent fibers of the branchial nerves. The chapters by Evans (2002. J Exp Zool 293:336-347) and Olson (2002) provide new challenges about a variety of neurocrine, endocrine, paracrine and autocrine signals that modulate gill perfusion and ionic transport.The development of the immunohistochemical techniques has led to a new phase of experimentation and to information mainly related to gills rather than air-breathing organs of fishes. During the last few years, identification of new molecules as autonomic neurotransmitters, monoamines and NO, and of their multiple roles as cotransmitters, has reshaped our knowledge of the mechanisms of autonomic regulation of various functions in the organs of teleosts (Donald, '98).NO acts as neurotransmitter and is widely distributed in the nerves and the neuroepithelial cells of the gill, the nerves of visceral muscles of the lung of polypterids, the vascular endothelial cells in the air sac of Heteropneustes fossilis and the respiratory epithelium in the swimbladder of the catfish Pangasius hypophthalmus. In addition, 5-HT, enkephalins and some neuropeptides, such as VIP and PACAP, seem to be NANC transmitter candidates in the fish gill and polypterid lung. The origin and function of NANC nerves in the lung of air-breathing fishes await investigation.Several mechanisms have developed in the Vertebrates to control the flow of blood to respiratory organs. These mechanisms include a local production of vasoactive substances, a release of endocrine hormones into the circulation and neuronal mechanisms.Air breathers may be expected to have different control mechanisms compared with fully aquatic fishes. Therefore, we need to know the distribution and function of autonomic nerves in the air-breathing organs of the fishes.[1]


  1. Neuropeptides and nitric oxide synthase in the gill and the air-breathing organs of fishes. Zaccone, G., Mauceri, A., Fasulo, S. J. Exp. Zoolog. Part A Comp. Exp. Biol. (2006) [Pubmed]
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