Effects of N-acetyl-cysteine treatment on glutathione depletion and a short-term spatial memory deficit in 2-cyclohexene-1-one-treated rats

Kwok Ho Christopher Choy, Olivia Dean, Michael Berk, Ashley Ian Bush, Maarten van den Buuse

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Glutathione (GSH) is the primary antioxidant in the body and is present in high levels in the brain. Levels of GSH and other antioxidants are significantly altered in major psychiatric illnesses, such as schizophrenia. Recent clinical trials have demonstrated that chronic treatment with N-acetyl-l-cysteine (NAC), a GSH precursor, improved symptoms in individuals with this illness. We previously showed in rats and mice that depletion of GSH by treatment with 2-cyclohexene-1-one (CHX) induced short-term spatial memory deficits in the Y-maze test. The aim of present study was to characterise the effect of NAC in this CHX-induced glutathione depletion model. Consistent with our previous studies, CHX treatment induced approximately 50% reduction of GSH levels in striatum, hippocampus and frontal cortex tissue. GSH depletion was significantly rescued by either 1.2 g/kg or 1.6 g/kg of NAC administration, with a full recovery observed in the frontal cortex after the high dose of NAC. CHX treatment also induced a disruption in short-term spatial recognition memory in Y-maze test, as measured by the duration of time spent in the novel arm. This disruption was reversed by treatment with 1.6 g/kg of NAC. In conclusion, this study suggests that rescue of depleted levels of GSH in the brain restores cognitive deficits, as measured by the Y-maze. These effects appear to be dose-dependent and region-specific. These results may be relevant to the understanding and management of the cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)224-228
Number of pages5
JournalEuropean Journal of Pharmacology
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2010


  • Acetylcysteine
  • Antioxidants
  • Glutathione
  • Hippocampus
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Schizophrenia

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