N-Acetyl cysteine reverses social isolation rearing induced changes in cortico-striatal monoamines in rats

Metab Brain Dis. 2013 Dec;28(4):687-96. doi: 10.1007/s11011-013-9433-z. Epub 2013 Sep 3.


Schizophrenia is causally associated with early-life environmental stress, implicating oxidative stress in its pathophysiology. N-acetyl cysteine (NAC), a glutathione precursor and antioxidant, is emerging as a useful agent in the adjunctive treatment of schizophrenia and other psychiatric illnesses. However, its actions on brain monoamine metabolism are unknown. Social isolation rearing (SIR) in rats presents with face, predictive and construct validity for schizophrenia. This study evaluated the dose-dependent effects of NAC (50, 150 and 250 mg/kg/day × 14 days) on SIR- vs. socially reared induced changes in cortico-striatal levels of dopamine (DA), serotonin (5-HT) noradrenaline (NA) and their associated metabolites. SIR induced significant deficits in frontal cortical DA and its metabolites, 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (Dopac) and homovanillic acid (HVA), reduced 5-HT and its metabolite, 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HIAA), and reduced levels of the NA metabolite, 3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenylglycol (MHPG). In addition, significant elevations in frontal cortical NA and striatal DA, Dopac, HVA, 5-HT, 5-HIAA, NA and MHPG were also observed in SIR rats. NAC at 150 and 250 mg/kg reversed all cortico-striatal DA, Dopac, HVA, 5-HT, 5-HIAA and striatal NA alterations in SIR animals, with 250 mg/kg of NAC also reversing alterations in cortico-striatal MHPG. In conclusion, SIR profoundly alters cortico-striatal DA, 5-HT and NA pathways that parallel observations in schizophrenia, while these changes are dose-dependently reversed or abrogated by sub-chronic NAC treatment. A modulatory action on cortico-striatal monoamines may explain NACs' therapeutic use in schizophrenia and possibly other psychiatric disorders, where redox dysfunction or oxidative stress is a causal factor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 3,4-Dihydroxyphenylacetic Acid / metabolism
  • Acetylcysteine / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Cerebral Cortex / drug effects*
  • Cerebral Cortex / metabolism
  • Corpus Striatum / drug effects*
  • Corpus Striatum / metabolism
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Homovanillic Acid / metabolism
  • Hydroxyindoleacetic Acid / metabolism
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Serotonin / metabolism
  • Social Isolation*


  • 3,4-Dihydroxyphenylacetic Acid
  • Serotonin
  • Hydroxyindoleacetic Acid
  • Dopamine
  • Acetylcysteine
  • Homovanillic Acid