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Biol Psychiatry. 2009 Mar 1;65(5):441-4. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2008.09.003. Epub 2008 Oct 30.

Disruption of fear memory through dual-hormone gene therapy.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA.



The basolateral complex of the amygdala (BLA) is uniquely affected by steroid hormones. Whereas glucocorticoids (GCs)--the adrenal hormones released during stress--increase the excitability of BLA neurons, estrogen decreases it.


In this study, we used a vector designed to express a chimeric gene that contains the GC-binding domain of the GC receptor (GR) and the DNA binding domain of the estrogen receptor (ER) ("ER/GR") in infected neurons; as a result, it transduces GC signals into estrogenic ones. We microinfused ER/GR bilaterally into the BLA of rats to determine whether it would impair fear conditioning, a valuable BLA-dependent paradigm for studying the neural basis of emotional memory.


Expression of ER/GR in the BLA caused robust expression of the transgene and a significant disruption of both auditory and contextual long-term fear memory consolidation, whereas fear learning and post-shock freezing remained intact.


These data show that dual gene therapy with ER/GR might be a useful tool for understanding the role of steroid hormones in the storage of traumatic memories.

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