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J Neurosci. 1998 May 1;18(9):3480-7.

Phosphorylation of mitogen-activated protein kinase by one-trial and multi-trial classical conditioning.

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  • 1Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, University of Texas Medical School at Houston, Houston, Texas 77225, USA.


The pathway supporting the conditioned stimulus (CS) is one site of plasticity that has been studied extensively in conditioned Hermissenda. Several signal transduction pathways have been implicated in classical conditioning of this preparation, although the major emphasis has been on protein kinase C. Here we provide evidence for the activation and phosphorylation of a mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway by one-trial and multi-trial conditioning. A one-trial in vitro conditioning procedure consisting of light (CS) paired with the application of 5-HT results in the increased incorporation of 32PO4 into proteins detected with two-dimensional gel electrophoresis. Two of the phosphoproteins have molecular weights of 44 and 42 kDa, consistent with extracellular signal-regulated protein kinases (ERK1 and ERK2). Phosphorylation of the 44 and 42 kDa proteins by one-trial conditioning was inhibited by pretreatment with PD098059, A MEK1 (ERK-Activating kinase) inhibitor. Assays of ERK activity with brain myelin basic protein as a substrate revealed greater ERK activity for the group that received one-trial conditioning compared with an unpaired control group. Western blot analysis of phosphorylated ERK using antibodies recognizing the dually phosphorylated forms of ERK1 and ERK2 showed an increase in phosphorylation after one-trial conditioning compared with unpaired controls. The increased phosphorylation of ERK after one-trial conditioning was blocked by pretreatment with PD098059. Hermissenda that received 10 or 15 conditioning trials showed significant behavioral suppression compared with pseudo-random controls. After conditioning and behavioral testing, the conditioned animals showed significantly greater phosphorylation of ERK compared with the pseudo-random controls. These results show that the ERK-MAPK signaling pathway is activated in Pavlovian conditioning of Hermissenda.

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