Hypertonic saline (1 ml of 0.25, 0.50, and 1.00 M NaCl, ip) facilitated retention of a one-trial, step-through inhibitory avoidance task when injected into male Swiss mice 10 min after training, as indicated by retention performance 48 h later. A similar result was obtained after a subcutaneous injection of lysine vasopressin (LVP, 0.03 μg/kg). Neither hypertonic saline nor LVP modified latencies to step-through of mice that had not received a footshock during training. The enhancement of retention produced both by hypertonic saline and by LVP was prevented by the vasopressin receptor antagonist AAVP (0.01 μg/kg, sc) given after training, but 10 min before the treatments. The effect of hypertonic saline was also prevented by the central acting cholinergic nicotinic receptor antagonist mecamylamine (5 mg/kg, sc). On the contrary, neither hexamethonium (5 mg/kg, sc), a peripheral acting nicotinic receptor blocker, nor atropine (0.5 mg/kg, sc) or methylatropine (0.5 mg/kg, sc), two anticholinergic drugs which are known to act on cholinergic muscarinic receptors, prevented the effect of post-training hypertonic saline. These results suggest that a peripheral osmotic stimulus, probably through an endogenous release of vasopressin, may be behaviorally significant, and are consistent with the view that vasopressin may modulate the activity of central cholinergic nicotinic mechanisms which are critical for the behavioral change observed.
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