Neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS) is a constitutively expressed and calcium-dependent enzyme. Despite predominantly expressed in neurons, nNOS has been also found in astrocytes, although at lower expression levels. We have studied the regulation of nNOS expression in cultured rat astrocytes from cortex and spinal cord by Western blotting and immunocytochemistry. nNOS was not detectable in cultured astrocytes grown in serum-containing medium (SCM), but was highly expressed after serum deprivation. Accordingly, calcium-dependent NOS activity and both intracellular nitrite levels and nitrotyrosine immunoreactivity after glutamate stimulation were higher in serum-deprived astrocytes than in cells grown in SCM. Serum deprivation induced a modification of astrocytes morphology, from flat to stellate. nNOS upregulation was also observed in reactive astrocytes of rat hippocampi after electrically induced status epilepticus, as demonstrated by double-labeling experiments. Thus, nNOS upregulation occurs in both in vitro stellate and in vivo reactive astrocytes, suggesting a possible involvement of glial nNOS in neurological diseases characterized by reactive gliosis.
- Astroglia stellation
- Cortical and spinal cord astroglia
- Nitric oxide
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