In the present study, to better understand the role of different nitric oxide synthase (NOS) isoforms in hippocampus-dependent forms of learning, we examined the expression of neural, endothelial, and inducible NOS in the hippocampus of young-adult rats classified as "poor" and "good" learners on the basis of their performance in the partially baited 12-arm radial maze. Taking into consideration strain-dependent differences in learning skills and NOS expression, experiments were performed on two different lines of laboratory rats: the inbred Wistar (W) and the outcrossed Wistar/Spraque-Dawley(W/S) line. The hippocampal levels of NOS proteins were assessed by Western Blotting. In the present study, genetically more homogenous W rats showed a slower rate of learning compared to the genetically less homogenous outcrossed W/S rats. The deficient performance in the W rat group compared to outcrossed W/S rats, and in "poor" learners of both groups compared to "good" learners was due to a higher percentage of reference memory errors. The overall NOS levels were significantly higher in W group compared to outcrossed W/S rats. In both rat lines, the rate of learning positively correlated with hippocampal levels of nNOS and negatively correlated with iNOS levels. Hippocampal eNOS levels correlated negatively with animals' performance but only in the W rats. These results suggest that all 3 NOS isoforms are implemented but play different roles in neural signaling. (C) 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.