★ Sunifiram ameliorates memory-related behaviors in OBX mice. ★ Sunifiram improves hippocampal LTP impaired in OBX mice. ★ Sunifiram increases CaMKII and PKC activities in the CA1 region. ★ Sunifiram enhances cognitive function via the glycine-binding site of NMDAR.
Alzheimer's disease (AD) shows degeneration of the cholinergic system in the medial septum, thereby eliciting down-regulation of the olfactory function in patients. We have previously reported that olfactory bulbectomized (OBX) mice show hippocampus-dependent memory impairment as assessed by memory-related behavioral tasks and hippocampal long-term potentiation (LTP). In the present study, we focused whether novel pyrrolidone nootropic drug sunifiram improves both memory impairment and depression observed in OBX mice. OBX mice were administered once a day for 7–12 days with sunifiram (0.01–1.0 mg/kg p.o.) from 10 days after operation with or without gavestinel (10 mg/kg i.p.), which is glycine-binding site inhibitor of N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor (NMDAR). The spatial reference memory assessed by Y-maze and short-term memory assessed by novel object recognition task were significantly improved by sunifiram treatment in OBX mice. Sunifiram also restored hippocampal LTP injured in OBX mice without treatment with gavestinel. By contrast, sunifiram treatment did not ameliorate the depressive behaviors assessed by tail suspension task in OBX mice. Notably, sunifiram treatment restored CaMKIIα (Thr-286) autophosphorylation and GluR1 (Ser-831) phosphorylation in the hippocampal CA1 region from OBX mice to the levels of control mice. Likewise, sunifiram treatment improved PKCα (Ser-657) autophosphorylation and NR1 (Ser-896) phosphorylation to the control levels. Stimulation of CaMKII and PKC autophosphorylation by sunifiram was significantly inhibited by pre-treatment with gavestinel. However, sunifiram treatment did not affect the phosphorylation of CaMKIV (Thr-196) and ERK. Taken together, sunifiram ameliorates OBX-induced deficits of memory-related behaviors and impaired LTP in the hippocampal CA1 region via stimulation of glycine-binding site of NMDAR.