The distribution, colocalization with enzymes producing nitric oxide (NO), and the synaptic organization of neurons containing two calcium-binding proteins (CaBPs) - parvalbumin (Parv) and calbindin-D28K (Calb) - were investigated in the rat periaqueductal gray matter (PAG). Parv-immunopositive (ParvIP) neurons were detected in the mesencephalic nucleus and rarely in the PAG. CalbIP neurons were found both in the dorsolateral (PAG-dl) and ventrolateral PAG (PAG-vl); their size ranged from 112.96 μm(2) (PAG-dl) to 125.13 μm(2) (PAG-vl). Ultrastructurally Parv and Calb immunoreactivity was mostly found in dendritic profiles. Axon terminals containing each of the two CaBPs formed symmetric synapses. Moreover both Parv and Calb were used to label a subpopulation of NO-producing neurons. Colocalization was investigated using two protocols: (i) a combination of Calb and Parv immunocytochemistry (Icc) with nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate diaphorase (NADPH-d) histochemistry (Hi) and (ii) neuronal NO synthase-Icc (nNOS) (immunofluorescence). Both techniques demonstrated a complete lack of colocalization of Parv and NADPH-d/nNOS in PAG neurons. Double-labeled (DL) neurons (Calb-NADPH-d; Calb-nNOS) were detected in PAG-dl. NADPH-d-Hi/Calb-Icc indicated that 41-47% of NADPH-d-positive neurons contained Calb, whereas 17-23% of CalbIP cells contained NADPH-d. Two-color immunofluorescence revealed that 53-66% of nNOSIP cells colocalized with Calb and 24-34% of CalbIP neurons contained nNOS. DL neuron size was 104.44 μm(2); neurons labeled only with NADPH-d or Calb measured 89.793 μm(2) and 113.48 μm(2), respectively. Together with previous findings (Barbaresi et al. ) these data suggest that: Therefore the important aspect of the PAG intrinsic organization emerging from this and previous double-labeling studies is the chemical diversity of NO-synthesizing neurons, which is likely related to the different functions in which these neurons are involved.
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