Forced swimming sabotages the morphological and synaptic maturation of newborn granule neurons and triggers a unique pro-inflammatory milieu in the hippocampus.
Cyclooxygenase (COX) is the rate-limiting enzyme in the metabolism of arachidonic acid into prostanoids. Although it is constitutively expressed in brain neurons, the inducible isoform (COX-2) is also upregulated in pathological conditions such as seizures, ischemia or some degenerative diseases. To assess whether COX-2 is regulated after stress, we have used adult male Wistar rats, some of which were immobilized during 6 h. An increase in PGE2 concentration occurs in brain cortex after 2–6 h of the onset of stress as well as an enhancement of COX-2 protein. Immunohistochemical studies indicate that COX-2 is expressed in the cortex and hippocampus after stress in cells with morphology of neurons. Administration of PDTC (150 mg/kg), an inhibitor of the transcription factor NF-κB or MK-801 (0.2 mg/kg), an N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor blocker, prevents both stress-induced increase in COX-2 activity and protein levels, suggesting an implication of these factors in the mechanism by which stress induces COX-2 in brain. To assess if COX-2 accounts for the oxidative status seen in brain after stress, a group of animals were i.p. injected with NS-398, a specific COX-2 inhibitor 1 h prior to the onset of stress. NS-398 (5 mg/kg) decreases stress-induced malondialdehyde accumulation in cortex as well as prevents the stress-induced oxidation of glutathione. Finally, NS-398 reduced Ca2+-independent inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS, NOS-2) activity and lowered the stress-induced accumulation of NO metabolite levels in cortex. These effects of NS-398 seem to be due to the specific inhibition of COX-2, since it has no effect on stress-induced corticosterone release, glutamate release, and NF-κB activation. These findings are discussed as possible damaging and/or adaptive roles for stress-induced COX-2 in the brain.