NO (nitric oxide) produced in limbic brain regions has important roles in the regulation of autonomic nervous system and HPA axis activity, anxiety, fear learning, long-term memory formation, and depression. NO is synthesized from L-arginine in a reaction catalyzed by nitric oxide synthase (NOS). Neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS), one of the three isoforms of NOS, is synthesized constitutively in nerve cells. Increasing evidence indicates that nNOS expression in the nervous system may be regulated by stress and nicotinic receptors. Furthermore, data obtained from several studies suggest that signaling pathways induced by stress and nicotinic receptors may converge on various signal transduction molecules to regulate nNOS expression in brain. In the present study, we used Western Blot analysis to test the effect of forced swim stress, chronic nicotine administration, and the combined effect of both procedures on nNOS expression in the hippocampus, amygdala and frontal cortex of the male and female rat brain. Basal nNOS levels of the three brain regions examined did not show sex differences. However, forced swim stress and chronic nicotine administration increased nNOS expression in the hippocampus of female rats. When stress and nicotine were applied together, no additional increment was observed. Stress and nicotine did not regulate nNOS expression in the amygdala and the frontal cortex of either sex. Data obtained from the present study indicate that the regulation of stress and nicotine induced-nNOS expression in rat hippocampus shows sexual dimorphism and nNOS expression in the female rat hippocampus increases by nicotine and stress. (C) 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.