Carbon monoxide (CO) is an activator of soluble guanylyl cyclase and is implicated as a neuronal messenger. CO production, nitric oxide synthase (NOS) activity, and guanosine 3',5'-monophosphate (cGMP) levels were quantitated in cerebellar granule cell cultures. Metabolic labeling experiments enabled the direct measurement of neuronal CO production in vitro. CO production is significant, and peaked during early stages of culture. NOS activity and cGMP levels synchronously increased as cells matured. Whereas inhibition of NOS depleted cGMP in mature cultures, inhibitors of CO production potentiated the nitric oxide (NO)-mediated cGMP increase. Exogenous CO at similar concentrations to endogenous levels blocked the NO-mediated cGMP increase. These results directly demonstrate that endogenous neuronal CO production is high and indicate that while NO is the major regulator of cGMP in these neurons, CO may modulate the NO-cGMP signaling system.
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