Thimerosal (THIM) kills brain neurons via induction of apoptosis and necrosis and induces the pathological features of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in rats. THIM also affects the function of glutamatergic receptors. On the other hand, exercise induces both improvement and impairment effects on memory, depending on intensity, type, and duration. Treadmill exercise can also alter the expression of glutamatergic receptors. In this study, we aimed to investigate the effect of THIM and three protocols of treadmill exercise on social interaction memory and hippocampal expression of GluN1, GluN2A, and GluN2B in rats. THIM was injected intramuscularly at the dose of 300 µg/kg. The three-chamber apparatus was used to evaluate social interaction memory, and western blotting was used to assess protein expression. The results showed that THIM impaired social memory. Exercise 1 impaired social affiliation in controls. Social memory was impaired in all exercise groups of controls. Exercise 1 + 2 impaired social affiliation in THIM rats. Social memory was impaired in all groups of THIM rats. Exercises 2 and 1 + 2 decreased the expression of GluN1, and exercise 1 increased the expression of GluN2A and GluN2B in controls. THIM increased the expression of GluN2B, while exercise 1 reversed this effect. All exercise protocols increased the expression of GluN2A, and exercises 2 and 1 + 2 increased the expression of GluN1 in THIM rats. In conclusion, both THIM and exercise impaired social memory. Of note, the results did not show a separate and influential role for glutamatergic subunits in modulating memory processes following THIM injection or exercise.
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