Institution: Haverford College, Haverford, Pennsylvania
Abstract: Nitric oxide (NO) is an atypical neurotransmitter synthesized by the enzyme nitric oxide synthase (NOS) during many stages of the Xenopus laevis life cycle. This research investigates whether the gas NO is involved in axon guidance, the neurodevelopmental process in which axons travel through the brain to their appropriate target locations to form functional neural circuitry. Through immunocytochemistry and direct labeling of the NO gas with a fluorescent dye, we have found that NOS expression corresponds spatiotemporally with the beginning of retinal axon innervation of the optic tectum in X. laevis. Our function-blocking studies in which NO is chemically inhibited suggest that NO may be necessary for correct pathfinding and targeting, evidenced by qualitative widening of the optic tract and aberrant target innervation.