Ultrastructural localization of NADPH diaphorase and nitric oxide synthase in the neuropils of the snail CNS

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Comparative studies on the nervous system revealed that nitric oxide (NO) retains its function through the evolution. In vertebrates NO can act in different ways: it is released solely or as a co-transmitter, released from presynaptic or postsynaptic site, spreads as a volumetric signal or targets synaptic proteins. In invertebrates, however, the possible sites of NO release have not yet been identified. Therefore, in the present study, the subcellular distribution of the NO synthase (NOS) was examined in the central nervous system (CNS) of two gastropod species, the terrestrial snail, Helix pomatia and the pond snail, Lymnaea stagnalis, which are model species in comparative neurobiology. For the visualization of NOS NADPH-diaphorase histochemistry and an immunohistochemical procedure using a universal anti-NOS antibody were applied. At light microscopic level both techniques labeled identical structures in sensory tracts ramifying in the neuropils of central ganglia and cell bodies of the Lymnaea and Helix CNS. At ultrastructural level NADPH-d reactive/NOS-immunoreactive materials were localized on the nuclear envelope and membrane segments of the rough and smooth endoplasmic reticulum, as well as the cell membrane and axolemma of positive perikarya. NADPH-d reactive and NOS-immunoreactive varicosities connected to neighboring neurons with both unspecialized and specialized synaptic contacts. In the varicosities, the majority of the NADPH-d reactive/NOS-immunoreactive membrane segments were detected in round and pleomorph agranular vesicles of small size (50-200. nm). However, only a small portion (16%) of the vesicles displayed the NADPH-d reactivity/NOS-immunoreactivity. No evidence for the postsynaptic location of NOS was found. Our results suggest that the localization of NADPH-diaphorase and NOS is identical in the snail nervous system. In contrast to vertebrates, however, NO seems to act exclusively in an anterograde way possibly released from membrane segments of the presynaptic transmitter vesicle surface. Based on the subcellular distribution of NOS, NO could be both a volume and a synaptic mediator, in addition NO may function as a co-transmitter.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)58-66
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1 2015


  • Central nervous system
  • Gastropods
  • Histochemistry
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • NADPH-diaphorase
  • Nitric oxide synthase
  • Ultrastructure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)
  • Cell Biology

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