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J Neurosci. 2003 Dec 10;23(36):11436-43.

Mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling in the hippocampus and its modulation by corticotropin-releasing factor receptor 2: a possible link between stress and fear memory.

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  • 1Laboratory on Cell Biologic Mechanisms of Memory, Department of Molecular Neuroendocrinology, Max Planck Institute for Experimental Medicine, 37075 Goettingen, Germany.


A coordinated activation of multiple interlinked signaling pathways involving cAMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA) and mitogen-activated extracellular signal-regulated kinases (Mek-1/2) regulates gene expression and neuronal changes underlying memory consolidation. In the present study we investigated whether these molecular cascades might mediate the effects of stress on memory formation. We also investigated the role of hippocampal corticotropin-releasing factor receptor 2 (CRF2) in stress-enhanced learning and molecular signaling mediated by PKA, Mek-1/2, and their downstream targets extracellularly regulated kinases 1 and 2 (Erk-1/2) and p90-ribosomal-s-kinase-1 (p90Rsk-1). Acute 1 hr immobilization was used as a stressful stimulus, and one-trial context-dependent fear conditioning was used as a model for associative learning. Training of BALB/c mice 3 hr after the end of immobilization resulted in an enhancement of conditioned fear, as indicated by significantly increased freezing behavior of stressed when compared with nonstressed mice. Interestingly, Erk-1/2 phosphorylation after conditioning of nonstressed and stressed mice depended on PKA and Mek-1/2, respectively. Intrahippocampal injection of the selective Mek-1/2 inhibitor U0126 or CRF2 antagonist antisauvagine-30 (aSvg-30) prevented stress-enhanced fear conditioning and Mek-1/2-dependent activation of Erk-1/2 and p90Rsk-1. aSvg-30 did not affect the phosphorylation of the PKA regulatory subunit II of stressed mice. The molecular and behavioral effects of CRF2 coincided with stress-induced upregulation of CRF2 mRNA. These results suggest that modulation of Mek-1/2-dependent signaling by hippocampal CRF2 can be selectively involved in the delayed effects of stress on memory consolidation.

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