Social isolation deprives rodents of social interactions that are critical for normal development of brain and behavior. Several studies have indicated that postweaning isolation rearing may affect nitric oxide (NO) production. The aim of this study was to compare selected behavioral and biochemical changes related to NO production in the brain of rats reared in social isolation for different duration. At the age of 21 days, male Sprague Dawley rats were randomly assigned into four groups reared in isolation or socially for 10 or 29 weeks. At the end of the rearing, open-field and prepulse inhibition (PPI) tests were carried out. Furthermore, in several brain areas we assessed NO synthase (NOS) activity, protein expression of nNOS and iNOS isoforms and the concentration of conjugated dienes (CD), a marker of oxidative damage and lipid peroxidation. Social isolation for 10 weeks resulted in a significant decrease in PPI, which was accompanied by a decrease in NOS activity in the cerebral cortex and the cerebellum, an increase in iNOS in the hippocampus and an increase in CD concentration in cortex homogenate. On the other hand, a 29 week isolation had an opposite effect on NOS activity, which increased in the cerebral cortex and the cerebellum in animals reared in social isolation, accompanied by a decrease in CD concentration. The decrease in NOS activity after 10 weeks of isolation might have been caused by chronic stress induced by social isolation, which has been documented in previous studies. The increased oxidative state might result in the depleted NO bioavailability, as NO reacts with superoxide radical creating peroxynitrite. After 29 weeks of isolation, this loss of NO might be compensated by the subsequent increase in NOS activity.
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