The Journal of experimental biology

A role for nitric oxide in the control of breathing in zebrafish (Danio rerio).

PMID 26486367


Nitric oxide (NO) is a gaseous neurotransmitter, which, in adult mammals, modulates the acute hypoxic ventilatory response; its role in the control of breathing in fish during development is unknown. We addressed the interactive effects of developmental age and NO in the control of piscine breathing by measuring the ventilatory response of zebrafish (Danio rerio) adults and larvae to NO donors and by inhibiting endogenous production of NO. In adults, sodium nitroprusside (SNP), a NO donor, inhibited ventilation; the extent of the ventilatory inhibition was related to the pre-existing ventilatory drive, with the greatest inhibition exhibited during exposure to hypoxia (PO2=5.6 kPa). Inhibition of endogenous NO production using L-NAME suppressed the hypoventilatory response to hyperoxia, supporting an inhibitory role of NO in adult zebrafish. Neuroepithelial cells (NECs), the putative oxygen chemoreceptors of fish, contain neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS). In zebrafish larvae at 4 days post-fertilization, SNP increased ventilation in a concentration-dependent manner. Inhibition of NOS activity with L-NAME or knockdown of nNOS inhibited the hypoxic (PO2=3.5 kPa) ventilatory response. Immunohistochemistry revealed the presence of nNOS in the NECs of larvae. Taken together, these data suggest that NO plays an inhibitory role in the control of ventilation in adult zebrafish, but an excitatory role in larvae.