✓ To determine the distribution of nitric oxide synthase (NOS) in the primate cerebral artery nervi vasorum and to examine the potential role of NOS in cerebral vasospasm after subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) in primates, the distribution of NOS immunoreactivity (NOS-IR) in the major cerebral arteries was examined immunohistochemically in cynomolgus monkeys by the use of whole, mounted preparations of the circle of Willis. In four normal monkeys, NOS-IR was localized to the endothelial and adventitial layers of the large cerebral arteries. On the abluminal side, NOS-IR staining was densely concentrated in perivascular nerve fibers (nervi vasorum) of the anterior circulation. Staining was less prominent in the posterior circulation. In six monkeys with vasospasm on Day 7 after placement of preclotted arterial blood to form an SAH around the right middle cerebral artery (MCA) (42% ± 8.3% decrease of MCA area, mean ± standard deviation), NOS-IR was virtually absent in nerve fibers around the spastic right MCA but was normal on the contralateral side. In five monkeys in which vasospasm resolved by Day 14 after SAH (36% ± 14% decrease of right MCA area on Day 7, and 5% ± 14% decrease on Day 14), NOS-IR was also absent in the right MCA adventitial nerve fibers and remained normal in the left MCA. Adventitial NOS-IR was also normal in cerebral vessels of a sham-operated, nonspastic monkey.
These findings provide further evidence that nitric oxide (NO) functions as a neuronal transmitter to mediate vasodilation in primates and indicate a role for adventitial NO in the pathogenesis of cerebral vasospasm after SAH in humans.