Expression of nitric oxide synthase isoforms is reduced in late-gestation ovine fetal brainstem

Charles E Wood, Gin-Fu Chen, Maureen Keller-Wood
American Journal of Physiology. Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology 2005, 289 (2): R613-R619
Fetal baroreflex responsiveness increases in late gestation. An important modulator of baroreflex activity is the generation of nitric oxide in the brainstem nuclei that integrate afferent and efferent reflex activity. The present study was designed to test the hypothesis that nitric oxide synthase (NOS) isoforms are expressed in the fetal brainstem and that the expression of one or more of these enzymes is reduced in late gestation. Brainstem tissue was rapidly collected from fetal sheep of known gestational ages (80, 100, 120, 130, 145 days gestation and 1 day and 1 wk postnatal). Neuronal (nNOS), inducible (iNOS), and endothelial (eNOS) mRNA was measured using real-time PCR methodology specific for ovine NOS isoforms. The three enzymes were measured at the protein level using Western blot methodology. In tissue prepared for histology separately, the cellular pattern of immunostaining was identified in medullae from late-gestation fetal sheep. Fetal brainstem contained mRNA and protein of all three NOS isoforms, with nNOS the most abundant, followed by iNOS and eNOS, respectively. nNOS and iNOS mRNA abundances were highest at 80 days' gestation, with statistically significant decreases in abundance in more mature fetuses and postnatal animals. nNOS and eNOS protein abundance also decreased as a function of developmental age. nNOS and eNOS were expressed in neurons, iNOS was expressed in glia, and eNOS was expressed in vascular endothelial cells. We conclude that all three isoforms of NOS are constitutively expressed within the fetal brainstem, and the expression of all three forms is reduced with advancing gestation. We speculate that the reduced expression of NOS in this brain region plays a role in the increased fetal baroreflex activity in late gestation.

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