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Learn Mem. 2008 Oct 2;15(10):792-805. doi: 10.1101/lm.1114808. Print 2008 Oct.

The NO-cGMP-PKG signaling pathway regulates synaptic plasticity and fear memory consolidation in the lateral amygdala via activation of ERK/MAP kinase.

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Department of Psychology, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 06520, USA.


Recent studies have shown that nitric oxide (NO) signaling plays a crucial role in memory consolidation of Pavlovian fear conditioning and in synaptic plasticity in the lateral amygdala (LA). In the present experiments, we examined the role of the cGMP-dependent protein kinase (PKG), a downstream effector of NO, in fear memory consolidation and long-term potentiation (LTP) at thalamic and cortical input pathways to the LA. In behavioral experiments, rats given intra-LA infusions of either the PKG inhibitor Rp-8-Br-PET-cGMPS or the PKG activator 8-Br-cGMP exhibited dose-dependent impairments or enhancements of fear memory consolidation, respectively. In slice electrophysiology experiments, bath application of Rp-8-Br-PET-cGMPS or the guanylyl cyclase inhibitor LY83583 impaired LTP at thalamic, but not cortical inputs to the LA, while bath application of 8-Br-cGMP or the guanylyl cyclase activator YC-1 resulted in enhanced LTP at thalamic inputs to the LA. Interestingly, YC-1-induced enhancement of LTP in the LA was reversed by concurrent application of the MEK inhibitor U0126, suggesting that the NO-cGMP-PKG signaling pathway may promote synaptic plasticity and fear memory formation in the LA, in part by activating the ERK/MAPK signaling cascade. As a test of this hypothesis, we next showed that rats given intra-LA infusion of the PKG inhibitor Rp-8-Br-PET-cGMPS or the PKG activator 8-Br-cGMP exhibit impaired or enhanced activation, respectively, of ERK/MAPK in the LA after fear conditioning. Collectively, our findings suggest that an NO-cGMP-PKG-dependent form of synaptic plasticity at thalamic input synapses to the LA may underlie memory consolidation of Pavlovian fear conditioning, in part, via activation of the ERK/MAPK signaling cascade.

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