Agmatine, decarboxylated arginine, is widely distributed in mammalian brains and is considered as a novel putative neurotransmitter. Recent research demonstrates spatial learning-induced increases in agmatine in memory-related structures at the tissue and presynaptic terminal levels. By using the in vivo microdialysis technique coupled with highly sensitive liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry assay, we investigated dynamic changes of extracellular agmatine in the rat dorsal hippocampus before, during and after water maze training to find a fixed hidden platform on the first and forth day of testing. It was firstly noted that the basal level of extracellular agmatine was significantly elevated on day 4. While swimming per se had no effect, a rapid rise (2-6 folds) in extracellular agmatine was observed during water maze training regardless of testing day. Such learning-induced rise was found to successively lessen across the multiple blocks of training on day 1. However, this pattern was reversed on day 4 when the platform was removed during the final training trial. The present study, for the first time, demonstrates water maze training-induced increase of extracellular agmatine in the dorsal hippocampus. The results suggest a role of endogenous agmatine in the encoding and retrieval of spatial information.
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