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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 Dec 13;102(50):18201-6. Epub 2005 Dec 5.

Tissue plasminogen activator and plasminogen mediate stress-induced decline of neuronal and cognitive functions in the mouse hippocampus.

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  • 1Department of Cell Physiology and Pharmacology, University of Leicester, UK.


Repeated stress can impair function in the hippocampus, a brain structure essential for learning and memory. Although behavioral evidence suggests that severe stress triggers cognitive impairment, as seen in major depression or posttraumatic stress disorder, little is known about the molecular mediators of these functional deficits in the hippocampus. We report here both pre- and postsynaptic effects of chronic stress, manifested as a reduction in the number of NMDA receptors, dendritic spines, and expression of growth-associated protein-43 in the cornu ammonis 1 region. Strikingly, the stress-induced decrease in NMDA receptors coincides spatially with sites of plasminogen activation, thereby predicting a role for tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) in this form of stress-induced plasticity. Consistent with this possibility, tPA-/- and plasminogen-/- mice are protected from stress-induced decrease in NMDA receptors and reduction in dendritic spines. At the behavioral level, these synaptic and molecular signatures of stress-induced plasticity are accompanied by impaired acquisition, but not retrieval, of hippocampal-dependent spatial learning, a deficit that is not exhibited by the tPA-/- and plasminogen-/- mice. These findings establish the tPA/plasmin system as an important mediator of the debilitating effects of prolonged stress on hippocampal function at multiple levels of neural organization.

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