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J Neurosci. 2005 Feb 16;25(7):1761-8.

Spatial exploration-induced Arc mRNA and protein expression: evidence for selective, network-specific reactivation.

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Arizona Research Laboratories, Division of Neural Systems, Memory, and Aging, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona 85724-5115, USA.


The immediate-early gene Arc is transcribed in neurons that are part of stable neural networks activated during spatial exploratory behaviors. Arc protein has been demonstrated to regulate AMPA-type glutamate receptor trafficking by recruiting endosomal pathways, suggesting a direct role in synaptic plasticity. The purpose of the present study is to examine the fidelity of Arc mRNA translation and the temporal dynamics of behaviorally induced Arc protein expression after rats explore a novel environment. These experiments reveal two waves of Arc protein expression after a single exploration session. In the initial wave, virtually all cells that express Arc mRNA in the hippocampus and parietal cortex also express Arc protein, indicating, at a cellular level, that mRNA transcription and translation are closely correlated from 30 min to 2 h in hippocampal CA and parietal neurons. A second wave of protein expression spans the interval from 8 to 24 h and is also remarkably specific to cells active in the original behavior-induced network. This second wave is detected in a subset of the original active network and displays the novel property that the proportions of Arc-positive neurons become correlated among regions at 24 h. This suggests that the second expression wave is driven by network activity, and the stabilization of circuits reflecting behavioral experience may occur in temporally discrete phases, as memories become consolidated. This is the first demonstration of network-selective translational events consequent to spatial behavior and suggests a role for immediate-early genes in circuit-specific, late-phase synaptic biology.

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