Endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) or NOS-III in the endothelium catalyzes production of nitric oxide (NO). Nitric oxide diffuses freely into vascular smooth muscle, where it activates soluble guanylate cyclase (sGC) to produce guanosine 3′,5′-cyclic monophosphate (cGMP) and causes vasorelaxation. The NO/cGMP pathway is an important signaling pathway in the control of perinatal pulmonary circulation. An exact colocalization of NOS-III in the pulmonary endothelium and sGC in the vascular smooth muscle was demonstrated using a double immunolabeling technique. The sGC immunoreactivity was higher in resistant pulmonary vessels and veins than in conduit arteries, whereas NOS-III immunoreactivity was higher in conduit arteries than in veins. These results demonstrated anatomically in situ a paracrine role of NOS-III and sGC in the regulation of fetal pulmonary circulation and suggested a heterogeneous distribution of NOS-III and sGC within fetal ovine pulmonary vasculature. Our results provided an anatomic basis that supported previous functional studies on perinatal control of pulmonary circulation.
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