Microinjection into the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus of N(omega)-nitro-l-arginine methyl ester hydrochloride (l-NAME), a nitric oxide synthase (NOS) inhibitor, induces antinociceptive effect 5 days after a single restraint episode. The mechanisms of this stress-antinociceptive modulatory effect have not been investigated but may involve plastic changes in the hippocampal formation (HF).
The objective of the present study was to investigate possible mechanisms of the stress-modulating effect on antinociception induced by NOS inhibition in the hippocampus. We analyzed the effects of restraint stress on neuronal NOS (nNOS) expression and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate-diaphorase histochemical activity (NADPH-d) in the HF and related brain regions.
Male Wistar rats (n=6-11/group) were submitted to a single (acute stress) or repeated (5 days) episodes of 2-h restraint. Control animals remained in their home cages being all animals daily handled during this period. In the fifth day, animals received unilateral microinjection of l-NAME (150 nmol/0.2 microl) or saline (control) into the dentate gyrus of the dorsal hippocampus (DG). Immediately before and after drug microinjection tail-flick reflex latency or hotplate licking reaction was measured. Animals were killed i. immediately; ii. 5 days after acute stress; or iii. after repeated stress. NADPH-d and nNOS expression were quantified in the HF, caudate-putamen, secondary somatosensorial, entorhinal and piriform cortices and amygdaloid complex.
Five days after one or five restraint episodes l-NAME microinjection into the DG elicited antinociceptive effect (analysis of variance [ANOVA], P<0.05). Acute restraint stress induced a significant increase in the density of neurons expressing NADPH-d and nNOS in the amygdaloid nuclei. nNOS expression increased also in the DG and piriform cortex. Five days after a single or repeated restraint stress there was an additional increase in NADPH-d- and nNOS-positive neurons in CA1, CA3, and entorhinal cortex. No changes were seen in non-limbic regions such as the caudate-putamen and secondary somatosensorial cortex.
The results confirm that the dorsal hippocampus participates in the modulation of stress consequences. They also show that a single stress episode causes acute changes in nitric oxide system in the amygdala complex and delayed modifications in the HF. The delayed (5 days) antinociceptive effect of NOS inhibition in the HF after a single restraint episode suggests that those latter modifications may have functional consequences. It remains to be tested if the acute amygdala and delayed hippocampal changes are causally related.