The aim of this study was to investigate the distribution of nitric oxide synthase (NOS)-containing nerve cells in the gastrointestinal tract of a reptile and to compare it with the pattern in other vertebrate classes. In the estuarine crocodile, Crocodylus porosus, NOS-positive nerve cell bodies and fibres were found in all regions of the gut examined. Most myenteric microganglia contained one or several NOS-immunoreactive neurons together with unlabelled neurons. The majority of the neurons were multipolar, ranging from 10 to 25 μm in diameter. Both the circular and the longitudinal muscle layers were innervated by NOS-immunoreactive nerve fibres, which mostly ran parallel to the muscle fibres. In addition, small blood vessels in the submucosa and on the serosal surface of the gut were innervated by NOS-immunoreactive fibres. Double labelling with antisera to NOS and vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) revealed three neuronal subpopulations. A small proportion of the NOS-immunoreactive cells also contained immunoreactivity to VIP while a majority of the VIP-immunoreactive cells were NOS immunoreactive. There were more nerve fibres showing VIP immunoreactivity than fibres with NOS immunoreactivity, although most of the latter also contained immunoreactivity to VIP. VIP-immunoreactive fibres often surrounded the NOS-immunoreactive nerve cells. These results suggest that neuronally released nitric oxide is likely to be involved in the control of gastrointestinal motility in the crocodile as in most other vertebrate species.
- Crocodylus porosus (Crocodilia)
- Enteric nervous system
- Nitric oxide
- Vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP)