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

The role of nitric oxide in development of the patch-cluster system and retinocollicular pathways in the rodent superior colliculus.

Nitric oxide (NO) has been implicated as a retrograde signal in the process of refining axonal pathways during brain development. To determine some of the factors involved in this process, we have used two model pathway systems in the rat and mouse superior colliculus (SC). The first, the patch-cluster system, consists of clusters of neurons in the intermediate gray layer (igl) which transiently express NO during development and which receive input from a cholinergic pathway from the parabrachial brainstem as well as from other pathways containing different transmitters. The second system, the retinocollicular pathway, consists of glutamatergic fibers that project to the superficial gray layer. We have used both nitric oxide synthase inhibition (nw-nitro-L-arginine, NoArg) and single (nNOS) and double (nNOS and eNOS) gene knockout mice to examine the effect that reduction in NOS has upon the development of these two systems. The onset of NOS expression in rat, as revealed by nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate diaphorase (NADPH-d) labeling, occurred in igl cells as early as postnatal day P5, with clusters being well-established by P14. Cholinergic fibers were first visible at P10 and formed obvious patches and tiers by P14. Intraperitoneal injections of NoArg from P1- P22 had no effect upon the development of these cholinergic patches. The pathway also developed normally in both single and double-knockout mice. In contrast, the ipsilateral retinocollicular pathway was altered in the double, but not in the single knockout mouse. This pathway is exuberant during the first week of life, being distributed across much of the mediolateral axis of the rostral SC. By P8- P15, this pathway has retracted to the most mediorostral SC. This refinement was delayed substantially in the double NOS gene knockout mouse. Ipsilateral fibers were found within 3-5 separate medio-lateral patches within the rostral 600 microns of SC at P15, and patches of abnormal size and extent were also seen at P18. We conclude from these results that NO plays a role in pathway development in the rodent SC, but only in glutamatergic pathways and only when both endothelial and neuronal forms of NOS have been deleted. The mechanism of this effect must involve pathway elimination in situations where there is non-correlated electrical activity. It is likely that NO promotes fiber retraction rather than fiber stabilization in these developing nerve fibers.[1]


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