Nitric oxide synthase and the acetylcholine receptor in the prefrontal cortex: Metasynaptic organization of the brain

B. Csillik, J. Nemcsok, I. Boncz, E. Knyihar-Csillik

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Nitric oxide synthase (NOS) and the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) immunoreactivity of the cerebral cortex was studied in adult Macaca fascicularis monkeys at light- and electron microscopic levels. NOS was located by means of the polyclonal antibodies developed by Transduction Laboratories (Lexington, KY, USA), as primary serum, in a dilution of 1:1000, and nAChR was located by means of biotinylated α-bungarotoxin (BTX) obtained from Molecular probes (Eugene, Oregon, USA) in a dilution of 1:2000. While endothelial eNOS outlined blood vessels in the brain, brain-derived (neural) bNOS labelled three well-defined cell types in area 46 of the prefrontal cortex, viz. (a) bipolar cells, scattered through layers III to V, equipped with long dendrites which pass over the thickness of the cortex in a right angle to the pial surface, establishing dendritic bundles closely reminiscent of a columnar organization; (b) large multipolar cells, located mainly in layers V and VI, with axons which interconnect dendritic bundles of the bipolar cells and establish synapses with dendritic shafts and spines of the former; and (c) stellate cells, located in lamina II and III, which establish an axonal network in lamina zonalis (lamina I). This arrangement is most characteristic in area 46 of the prefrontal cortex; areas 10 and 12 display similar features. In contrast, the primary visual cortex (area 17), is lacking any sign of columnar organization. Localization of bNOS immunoreactivity is at marked variance to that of NADPH-diaphorase which labelles large pyramidal cells in the primate cortex. Binding of α- bungarotoxin (BTX) which labels the α7 subunit of nAChR is located in somata, dendrites and axons of interneurons scattered over the entire width of the prefrontal cortex; on the other hand, the monoclonal antibody mAb 35 which labels subunits α1, α3 and α5 in the main immunogenic region of the receptor, visualizes apical dendritic shafts similar to those like bNOS. Strategic localization of bNOS in the primate prefrontal cortex fulfills criteria of producing a freely diffusing retrograde messenger molecule operative in signal transduction routes subserving topography and columnar organization of the cortex, as well as long-term potentiation and long-term depression phenomena underlying mnemonic and gnostic functions. Common occurrence of bNOS and nAChR in identical or similar structures in the prefrontal cortex suggests that interactions between nitrogen oxide and presynaptically released acetylcholine might be involved in the metasynaptic organization of the cerebral cortex, operating in a non-synaptic manner in maintaining optimal performance on cognitive tasks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)383-404
Number of pages22
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 1998


  • Acetylcholine receptor
  • Electron microscopy
  • Immunocytochemistry
  • Macaca fascicularis
  • Nitric oxide synthase
  • Prefrontal cortex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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