Nitric oxide synthase (NOS) catalyzes the formation of nitric oxide (NO) from L-arginine. In this study, the cellular localization of neuronal NOS (nNOS) activity in the human retina since fetal development was examined by immunohistochemistry. No detectable staining in the fetal retina was present at 14 weeks of gestation (wg), the earliest age group examined. A centro-peripheral gradient of development of nNOS immunoreactivity was evident at 16–17 wg, with the midperipheral retina showing nNOS immunoreactivity in most of the cell types and the inner plexiform layer while the peripheral part demonstrated moderate immunoreactivity only in the ganglion cell layer and photoreceptor precursors. A transient increase in nNOS immunoreactivity in the ganglion cells and Müller cell endfeet between 18–19 and 24–25 wg was observed at the time when programmed cell death in the ganglion cell layer, loss of optic nerve fibres as well as increase in glutamate immunoreactivity and parvalbumin (a calcium binding protein) immunoreactivity in the ganglion cells was reported. These observations indicate that programmed cell death of ganglion cells in the retina may be linked to glutamate toxicity and NO activity, as also suggested by others in the retina and cerebral cortex.
The presence of nNOS immunoreactivity in the photoreceptors from 16–17 weeks of fetal life to adulthood indicates other functions, besides their involvement in photoreceptor function of transduction and information processing.
Volume 48, 2023
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