Nitric oxide donors enhance neurotrophin-induced neurite outgrowth through a cGMP-dependent mechanism Academic Article uri icon

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  • Nitric oxide (NO), a diffusible and unstable gas, has been implicated in inter- and intra-cellular communication in the nervous system. NO also plays a role in neural development, plasticity and alterations of synaptic function such as long-term potentiation and long-term depression (Gally et al.: Proc NY Acad Sci, 87: 354-355, 1990; Zhuo et al.: Science 260:1946-1950, 1993; Schuman and Madison.: Science 254:1503-1506, 1991; Bruhwyler et al.: Neurosci Biobehav Rev 17:373-384, 1993) some of which likely involve growth and remodelling of neurites. Some actions of NO are mediated directly by protein modification (e.g., nitrosylation) and others by activation of soluble guanylyl cyclase (soluble GC), which increases intracellular levels of guanosine 3',5'-cyclic monophosphate (cGMP). NO is synthesized by the enzyme nitric oxide synthase (NOS), which is induced by treatment of CNS neurons (Holtzman et al.: Neurobiol Disease 1:51-60, 1994) or pheochromocytoma PC12 cells (Hirsch et al.: Curr Biol 3:749-754, 1993) with NGF. NO has been proposed to mediate some of the effects of NGF on PC12 cells by inhibiting cell division (Peunova and Enikolopov: Nature 374:68-73, 1995). In addition, NO can substitute for NGF by delaying the death of trophic factor-deprived PC12 cells through a mechanism that does not involve a cytostatic action (Farinelli et al.: J Neurosci 16:2325-2334, 1996). We investigated whether NO stimulated neurite outgrowth from hippocampal neurons and PC12 cells. Primary cultures of E17 mouse hippocampal neurons co-cultured with neopallial astrocytes were exposed to the NO donors sodium nitrite (100 microM) or sodium nitroprusside (100 nM). After 48 hr, NO donor-treated cultures contained a greater proportion of cells bearing neurites and neurites that were much longer than those found in control cultures. In cultures of PC12 cells, NO donors also enhanced the neuritogenic effects of NGF. The proportion of PC12 cells with neurites 48 hr after exposure to NO donors sodium nitrite (100 microM-10mM) or sodium nitroprusside (100 nM-1 micro M) plus 2.5S nerve growth factor (NGF) was approximately twice the proportion of cells with neurites in sister cultures grown in NGF alone. Neither of the NO donors elicited neurites from the PC12 cells in the absence of NGF. The effects of the NO donors were likely mediated by release of NO since their effects were antagonized by addition of hemoglobin, which avidly binds NO, to the culture medium. The enhancement by NO of NGF-mediated neurite outgrowth in PC12 cells appeared to occur through a cGMP-dependent mechanism. The NO donors stimulated a prompt increase in intracellular cGMP in PC12 cells. Moreover their action was mimicked by addition of the membrane-permeant cGMP analogs 8-Bromo-cGMP (8-Br-cGMP) and para (chlorophenylthio)-cGMP (pCPT-cGMP) to the culture medium and by atrial natriuretic factor which stimulates particulate guanylyl cyclase. The neuritogenic activity of the NO donors was inhibited by LY83583 and methylene blue, inhibitors of guanylyl cyclase. These data imply that NO may act alone or with other growth factors to regulate synapse formation and maintenance by stimulating neurite outgrowth.


  • Hindley, Shaun
  • Juurlink, Bernhard HJ
  • Gysbers, John W
  • Middlemiss, Pamela J
  • Herman, Mary AR
  • Rathbone, Michel Piers

publication date

  • February 15, 1997