Social isolation rearing induces mitochondrial, immunological, neurochemical and behavioural deficits in rats, and is reversed by clozapine or N-acetyl cysteine

Brain Behav Immun. 2013 May:30:156-67. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2012.12.011. Epub 2012 Dec 25.


Apart from altered dopamine (DA) function, schizophrenia displays mitochondrial and immune-inflammatory abnormalities, evidenced by oxidative stress, altered kynurenine metabolism and cytokine release. N-acetyl cysteine (NAC), an antioxidant and glutamate modulator, is effective in the adjunctive treatment of schizophrenia. Social isolation rearing (SIR) in rats is a valid neurodevelopmental animal model of schizophrenia. This study evaluated whether SIR-induced behavioural deficits may be explained by altered plasma pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines, kynurenine metabolism, and cortico-striatal DA and mitochondrial function (via adenosine triphosphate (ATP) release), and if clozapine or NAC (alone and in combination) reverses these changes. SIR induced pronounced deficits in social interactive behaviours, object recognition memory, and prepulse inhibition (PPI), while simultaneously increasing striatal but reducing frontal cortical accumulation of ATP as well as DA. SIR increased pro- vs. anti-inflammatory cytokine balance and altered kynurenine metabolism with a decrease in neuroprotective ratio. Clozapine (5mg/kg/day×14days) as well as clozapine+NAC (5mg/kg/day and 150mg/kg/day×14days) reversed these changes, with NAC (150mg/kg/day) alone significantly but partially effective in some parameters. Clozapine+NAC was more effective than clozapine alone in reversing SIR-induced PPI, mitochondrial, immune and DA changes. In conclusion, SIR induces mitochondrial and immune-inflammatory changes that underlie cortico-striatal DA perturbations and subsequent behavioural deficits, and responds to treatment with clozapine or NAC, with an additive effect following combination treatment. The data provides insight into the mechanisms that might underlie the utility of NAC as an adjunctive treatment in schizophrenia.

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcysteine / pharmacology*
  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Antipsychotic Agents / pharmacology
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Clozapine / pharmacology*
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Free Radical Scavengers / pharmacology
  • Kynurenine / metabolism
  • Male
  • Maternal Deprivation
  • Memory / drug effects
  • Memory / physiology
  • Mitochondria / drug effects
  • Mitochondria / metabolism*
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Social Behavior
  • Social Isolation*


  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Free Radical Scavengers
  • Kynurenine
  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • Clozapine
  • Dopamine
  • Acetylcysteine