Aims: Pre- and/or early postnatal ethanol exposure (prenatal alcohol exposure [PAE]) impairs synaptic plasticity as well as memory formation, but the mechanisms underlying these effects remain unclear. Both long-term potentiation (LTP) and spatial memory formation in the hippocampus involve the nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate oxidase type 2 (NOX2) enzyme. Previous studies have reported that N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) activation increases NOX2-mediated superoxide generation, resulting in inhibition of NMDAR function, but whether NOX2 impacts NMDAR function in PAE animals leading to impaired LTP and memory formation remains unknown. We aim to evaluate whether the NOX2-NMDAR complex is involved in the long-lasting deleterious effects of PAE on hippocampal LTP and memory formation.
Results: Here we provide novel evidence that PAE animals display impaired NMDAR-dependent LTP in the cornus ammonis field 1 (CA1) and NMDAR-mediated LTP in the dentate gyrus (DG). Moreover, PAE rats displayed increased NMDAR-mediated transmission in both hippocampal areas. Interestingly, NOX2 pharmacological inhibition restored NMDAR-mediated transmission and LTP in the CA1, but not in the DG. PAE also induced overexpression of NOX2 and CaMKII isoforms, but did not modify the content or the redox state of the N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor subunit-1 (NR1) subunit of NMDAR in both areas of the hippocampus. In addition, adolescent PAE rats orally fed the antioxidant and free radical scavenger apocynin exhibited significantly improved spatial memory acquisition.
Innovation and Conclusion: By showing in PAE animals NOX2 overexpression and increased NMDAR-mediated transmission, which might lead to impaired synaptic plasticity and memory formation in a region-specific manner, we provide an important advance to our current understanding of the cellular mechanisms underlying PAE-dependent defective hippocampal function