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Neurochem Res. 2013 Mar;38(3):564-72. doi: 10.1007/s11064-012-0949-0. Epub 2012 Dec 16.

Hippocampal neurofibromin and amyloid precursor protein expression in dopamine D3 receptor knock-out mice following passive avoidance conditioning.

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  • 1Department of Bio-Medical Sciences, Section of Anatomy and Histology, University of Catania, Via S. Sofia, 87, 95123, Catania, Italy.


Passive avoidance (PA) conditioning is a fear motivated task able to initiate a cascade of altered gene expression within the hippocampus, a structure critical to learning and memory. We have previously shown that neurofibromin (NF1) and amyloid precursor protein (APP), two genes implicated in cognitive function, are differentially expressed in brain of dopamine D3 receptor knock-out mice (D(3)R(-/-)), suggesting that the receptor might have a role in their trascriptional regulation. Here in this study, we hypothesized that during acquisition of PA conditioning the expression of NF1 and APP genes could be influenced by D(3)Rs. To address this issue, we analyzed the expression of NF1 and APP in the hippocampus of both wild-type (WT) and D(3)R(-/-) mice subjected to the single trial step-through PA paradigm. Our finding demonstrated that (1) D(3)R(-/-) mice exhibit increased cognitive performance as compared to WT mice in the step-through PA trial; (2) acquisition of PA increased D(3)R and NF1, but not APP expression in WT mice hippocampus; (3) PA-driven NF1 induction in WT was abrogated in D(3)R(-/-) mice and finally that (4) the heightened basal APP expression observed in naive D(3)R(-/-) mice was totally reversed by acquisition of PA. In conclusion, the present finding show for the first time that both D(3)R and NF1 genes are upregulated following PA conditioning and suggest that hippocampal D(3)Rs might be relevant to NF1 transcriptional regulation in the hippocampus.

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