Nitric oxide (NO) is well established as a neurotransmitter in the central and peripheral nervous systems. More recently, another gas, carbon monoxide (CO) has also been implicated in neurotransmission. In the nervous system CO is formed by a subtype of heme oxygenase (HO) designated HO2 (ref. 2). HO2 is localized to discrete neuronal populations in the brain resembling localizations of soluble guanylyl cyclase, which is activated by CO (ref. 3). CO may also function in the peripheral autonomic nervous system, in conjunction with NO. The majority of ganglia in the myenteric plexus possess both HO2 and neuronal NO synthase (NOS)4. Defects in myenteric plexus neurotransmission occur both in mice with targeted deletion of genes for HO2 and neuronal NOS (ref. 5). HO2 also occurs in other autonomic ganglia including the petrosal, superior cervical and nodose ganglia. Neuronal NOS is localized to neurons regulating male reproductive behavior, such as penile erection, and NOS inhibitors prevent erection. Because of the other parallels between NO and CO, we speculated that CO may play a role in male reproductive behavior. In the present study we describe HO2 localization in neuronal structures regulating copulatory reflexes. Reflex activity of the bulbospongiosus muscle, which mediates ejaculation and ejaculatory behavior, is markedly diminished in mice with targeted deletion of the gene for HO2 (HO2-).
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)