Effects of 7-nitroindazole, a selective neural nitric oxide synthase inhibitor, on context-shock associative learning in a two-process contextual fear conditioning paradigm

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Nitric oxide (NO) is an important retrograde neuronal intracellular messenger which plays an important role in synaptic plasticity and is involved in learning and memory. However, evidence that NO is particularly important for the acquisition of contextual fear conditioning is mixed. Also, little is known about at which stages of the contextual fear conditioning does NO make its contribution. In the present study, we used 7-nitroindazole to temporarily inhibit neural nitric oxide synthase at either the pre-exposure stage or conditioning stage in a two-process paradigm and examined the potential contribution that NO makes to the contextually conditioned fear. Results showed that the expression of contextual fear memory was significantly impaired in rats treated with 7-nitroindazole (30 mg/kg, i.p.) prior to the pairing of context-shock (p = 0.034, n = 8), but not after the conditioning phase (p = 0.846, n = 8). In addition, the expression of contextual fear memory and reconsolidation was not significantly impaired by 7-nitroindazole administered prior to the context pre-exposure stage or prior to another context-shock learning. These findings suggest that NO is specifically involved in the acquisition but not the consolidation, retrieval or reconsolidation of contextual fear memory.

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