The effects of an infusion (5 ng) of the neurosteroid pregnenolone sulfate into the nucleus basalis magnocellularis on acetylcholine release in the frontoparietal cortex and basolateral amygdala were evaluated during the 130 min post-injection in male Sprague-Dawley rats using in vivo microdialysis coupled 'on line' with high performance liquid chromatography detection. One week later, the same animals were tested for spatial memory after another infusion of pregnenolone sulfate (5 ng) into the nucleus basalis. Results show that pregnenolone sulfate enhanced acetylcholine release by more than 50% of baseline concentrations in the two structures relative to a control injection. The duration of this effect was longer in cortex (130 min) than in amygdala (30 min). Furthermore, pregnenolone sulfate improved memory performance in a task based upon spatial recognition of a familiar environment. A significant positive correlation (r=0.49) was found between the recognition score in the spatial memory test and the levels of acetylcholine release in the frontoparietal cortex but not in the basolateral amygdala. Therefore, our results suggest that the nucleus basalis magnocellularis-cortical pathway could be in part responsible for the promnesic effect of pregnenolone sulfate. This neurosteroid acts as a negative modulator of the GABA(A) receptor complex and positively modulates the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor, possibly resulting in a global stimulatory effect on central cholinergic neurotransmission.
- Basolateral amygdala
- Frontoparietal cortex
- Nucleus basalis magnocellularis
- Spatial memory