Enhanced Expression of Heme Oxygenase-1 and Carbon Monoxide Excitatory Effects in Oxytocin and Vasopressin Neurones During Water Deprivation

W. L. Reis, V. C. Biancardi, S. Son, J. Antunes-Rodrigues, J. E. Stern

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


A growing body of evidence indiates that carbon monoxide (CO) acts as a gas neurotransmitter within the central nervous system. Although CO has been shown to affect neurohypophyseal hormone release in response to osmotic stimuli, the precise sources, targets and mechanisms underlying the actions of CO within the magnocellular neurosecretory system remain largely unknown. In the present study, we combined immunohistochemistry and patch-clamp electrophysiology to study the cellular distribution of the CO-synthase enzyme heme oxygenase type 1 (HO-1), as well as the actions of CO on oxytocin (OT) and vasopressin (VP) magnocellular neurosecretory cells (MNCs), in euhydrated (EU) and 48-h water-deprived rats (48WD). Our results show the expression of HO-1 immunoreactivity both in OT and VP neurones, as well as in a small proportion of astrocytes, both in supraoptic (SON) and paraventricular (PVN) nuclei. HO-1 expression, and its colocalisation with OT and VP neurones within the SON and PVN, was significantly enhanced in 48WD rats. Inhibition of HO activity with chromium mesoporphyrin IX chloride (CrMP; 20μm) resulted in a slight membrane hyperpolarisation in SON neurones from EU rats, without significantly affecting their firing activity. In 48WD rats, on the other hand, CrMP resulted in a more robust membrane hyperpolarisation, significantly decreasing neuronal firing discharge. Taken together, our results indicate that magnocellular SON and PVN neurones express HO-1, and that CO acts as an excitatory gas neurotransmitter in this system. Moreover, we found that the expression and actions of CO were enhanced in water-deprived rats, suggesting that the state-dependent up-regulation of the HO-1/CO signalling pathway contributes to enhance MNCs firing activity during an osmotic challenge.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)653-663
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neuroendocrinology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Dehydration
  • Hypothalamus
  • Neuroendocrine
  • Paraventricular
  • Supraoptic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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