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Nitric oxide nerves in the uterus are parasympathetic, sensory, and contain neuropeptides

Abstract

Nitric oxide (NO) is synthesized in neurons and is a potent relaxor of vascular and nonvascular smooth muscle. The uterus contains abundant NO-synthesizing nerves which could be autonomic and/or sensory. This study was undertaken to determine: 1) the source(s) of NO-synthesizing nerves in the rat uterus and 2) what other neuropeptides or transmitter markers might coexist with NO in these nerves. Retrograde axonal tracing, utilizing Fluorogold injected into the uterine cervix, was employed for identifying sources of uterine-projecting neurons. NO-synthesizing nerves were visualized by staining for nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (reduced)-diaphorase (NADPH-d) and immunostaining with an antibody against neuronal/type I NO synthase (NOS). NADPH-d-positive perikarya and terminal fibers were NOS-immunoreactive (-I). Some NOS-I/NADPH-d-positive nerves in the uterus are parasympathetic and originate from neurons in the pelvic paracervical ganglia (PG) and some are sensory and originate from neurons in thoracic, lumbar, and sacral dorsal root ganglia. No evidence for NOS-I/NADPH-d-positive sympathetic nerves in the uterus was obtained. Furthermore, double immunostaining revealed that in parasympathetic neurons, NO-I/NADPH-d-reactivity coexists with vasoactive intestinal polypeptide, neuropeptide Y, and acetylcholinesterase and in sensory nerves, NOS-I/NADPH-d-reactivity coexists with calcitonin generelated peptide and substance P. In addition, tyrosine hydroxylase(TH)-I neurons of the PG do not contain NOS-I/NADPH-d-reactivity, but some TH-I neurons are apposed by NOS-I varicosities. These results suggest NO-synthesizing nerves in the uterus are autonomic and sensory, and could play significant roles, possibly in conjunction with other putative transmitter agents, in the control of uterine myometrium and vasculature.

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Correspondence to Raymond E. Papka.

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Papka, R.E., McNeill, D.L., Thompson, D. et al. Nitric oxide nerves in the uterus are parasympathetic, sensory, and contain neuropeptides. Cell Tissue Res 279, 339–349 (1995). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00318490

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Key words

  • Uterus
  • Neuropeptides
  • Autonomic ganglia
  • Sensory ganglia
  • NADPH-diaphorase
  • Rat (Sprague Dawley)