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Behavioural brain research

Nitric oxide facilitates active avoidance learning via enhancement of glutamate levels in the hippocampal dentate gyrus.


PMID 24933186

Abstract

The hippocampus is a key structure for learning and memory in mammals, and long-term potentiation (LTP) is an important cellular mechanism responsible for learning and memory. Despite a number of studies indicating that nitric oxide (NO) is involved in the formation and maintenance of LTP as a retrograde messenger, few studies have used neurotransmitter release as a visual indicator in awake animals to explore the role of NO in learning-dependent long-term enhancement of synaptic efficiency. Therefore, in the present study, the effects of l-NMMA (a NO synthase inhibitor) and SNP (a NO donor) on extracellular glutamate (Glu) concentrations and amplitudes of field excitatory postsynaptic potential (fEPSP) were measured in the hippocampal dentate gyrus (DG) region during the acquisition and extinction of active-avoidance behavior in freely-moving conscious rats. In the control group, the extracellular concentration of Glu in the DG was significantly increased during the acquisition of active-avoidance behavior and gradually returned to baseline levels following extinction training. In the experimental group, the change in Glu concentration was significantly reduced by local microinjection of l-NMMA, as was the acquisition of the active-avoidance behavior. In contrast, the change in Glu concentration was significantly enhanced by SNP, and the acquisition of the active-avoidance behavior was significantly accelerated. Furthermore, in all groups, the changes in extracellular Glu were accompanied by corresponding changes in fEPSP amplitude and active-avoidance behavior. Our results suggest that NO in the hippocampal DG facilitates active avoidance learning via enhancements of glutamate levels and synaptic efficiency in rats.

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