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Learn Mem. 2008 Jan 28;15(2):75-83. doi: 10.1101/lm.723708. Print 2008 Feb.

Constitutive activation of the G-protein subunit Galphas within forebrain neurons causes PKA-dependent alterations in fear conditioning and cortical Arc mRNA expression.

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Department of Biology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, USA.


Memory formation requires cAMP signaling; thus, this cascade has been of great interest in the search for cognitive enhancers. Given that medications are administered long-term, we determined the effects of chronically increasing cAMP synthesis in the brain by expressing a constitutively active isoform of the G-protein subunit Galphas (Galphas*) in postnatal forebrain neurons of mice. Previously, we showed that Galphas* mice exhibit increased adenylyl cyclase activity but decreased cAMP levels in cortex and hippocampus due to a PKA-dependent increase in total cAMP phosphodiesterase (PDE) activity. Here, we extend previous findings by determining if Galphas* mice show increased activity of specific PDE families that are regulated by PKA, if Galphas* mice show PKA-dependent deficits in fear memory, and if these memory deficits are associated with PKA-dependent alterations in neuronal activity as mapped by Arc mRNA expression. Consistent with previous findings, we show here that Galphas* mice exhibit a significant compensatory increase in cAMP PDE1 activity and a trend toward increased cAMP PDE4 activity. Further, inhibiting the presumably elevated PKA activity in Galphas* mice fully rescues short- and long-term memory deficits in a fear-conditioning task, while extending the training session from one to four CS-US pairings partially rescues these deficits. Mapping of Arc mRNA levels suggests these PKA-dependent memory deficits may be related to decreased neuronal activity specifically within the cortex. Galphas* mice show decreased Arc mRNA expression in CA1, orbital cortex, and cortical regions surrounding the hippocampus; however, only the deficits in cortical regions surrounding the hippocampus are PKA dependent. Our results imply that chronically stimulating targets upstream of cAMP may detrimentally affect cognition.

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