NADPH-Diaphorase Activity and Nitric Oxide Synthase-Like Immunoreactivity Colocalize in the Electromotor System of Four Species of Gymnotiform FishSmith G.T.a · Unguez G.A.b · Reinauer Jr. R.M.a
aSection of Neurobiology, School of Biological Sciences, University of Texas, Austin, Tex., bDepartment of Biology, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, N.Mex., USA
The electric organ discharge (EOD) of gymnotiform electric fish is controlled by a well-characterized neural circuit in the brainstem and spinal cord. NADPH-diaphorase (NADPH-d) activity was previously found in phase-locking and/or rapidly firing neurons in the electromotor and electrosensory systems of Apteronotus leptorhynchus [Turner and Moroz, 1995]. These findings suggested that nitric oxide synthase (NOS) is expressed in these neurons and may regulate their precise, high frequency firing. We extended these results by examining the distribution of both NADPH-d activity and NOS-like immunoreactivity (NOS-lir) in the electromotor systems of four gymnotiform species that differ in the frequency and modulation of their EODs. NOS-lir colocalized with NADPH-d staining throughout the electromotor system, indicating that NADPH-d is a faithful indicator of NOS in this system. The distribution of NOS-lir and NADPH-d was similar in the electromotor systems of all four species in this study, with one exception: NOS and NADPH-d staining was consistently less intense in pacemaker and relay cells in Sternopygus macrurus, which produces low frequency EODs, than in the three other species that produce higher frequency EODs. This species difference in NOS expression in the pacemaker nucleus may be related to species differences either in EOD frequency or in modulations of the EOD (e.g., the jamming avoidance response). In Apteronotus species, NOS-lir and NADPH-d were concentrated in bands along the axons of their nerve-derived electric organs. These bands corresponded to regions surrounded by little or no staining with a Schwann cell-specific antibody, suggesting that the NOS-positive regions lie near nodes of Ranvier. In Sternopygus and Eigenmannia, the innervated, posterior membranes of muscle-derived electrocytes were more intensely labeled for NADPH-d and NOS than inexcitable portions of the membrane. Thus, in both muscle- and nerve-derived electric organs, NOS is concentrated near excitable membranes. These results indicate that NOS is well-positioned within the electromotor system to regulate the frequency, precision, amplitude, and waveform of EODs.
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