Background and Purpose: Agmatine, a putative neurotransmitter, plays a vital role in learning and memory. Although it is considered an endogenous ligand of imidazoline receptors, agmatine exhibits high affinity for α-adrenoceptors, NOS and NMDA receptors. These substrates within the locus coeruleus (LC) are critically involved in learning and memory processes. Experimental Approach: The hippocampus and LC of male Wistar rat were stereotaxically cannulated for injection. Effects of agmatine, given i.p. or intra-LC, on acquisition, consolidation and retrieval of inhibitory avoidance (IA) memory were measured. The NO donor S-nitrosoglutathione, non-specific (L-NAME) and specific NOS inhibitors (L-NIL, 7-NI, L-NIO), the α2-adrenoceptor antagonist (yohimbine) or the corresponding agonist (clonidine) were injected intra-LC before agmatine. Intra-hippocampal injections of the NMDA antagonist, MK-801 (dizocilpine), were used to modify the memory enhancing effects of agmatine, SNG and yohimbine. Expression of tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) and eNOS in the LC was assessed immunohistochemically. Key Results: Agmatine (intra-LC or i.p.) facilitated memory retrieval in the IA test. S-nitrosoglutathione potentiated, while L-NAME and L-NIO decreased, these effects of agmatine. L-NIL and 7-NI did not alter the effects of agmatine. Yohimbine potentiated, whereas clonidine attenuated, effects of agmatine within the LC. The effects of agmatine, S-nitrosoglutathione and yohimbine were blocked by intra-hippocampal MK-801. Agmatine increased the population of TH- and eNOS-immunoreactive elements in the LC. Conclusions and Implications: The facilitation of memory retrieval in the IA test by agmatine is probably mediated by interactions between eNOS, NO and noradrenergic pathways in the LC.
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