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Genes Brain Behav. 2009 Nov;8(8):735-43. doi: 10.1111/j.1601-183X.2009.00515.x. Epub 2009 Jun 23.

Fear conditioning induces distinct patterns of gene expression in lateral amygdala.

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Department of Neurobiology and Ethology, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel.


The lateral nucleus of the amygdala (LA) has been implicated in the formation of long-term associative memory (LTM) of stimuli associated with danger through fear conditioning. The current study aims to detect genes that are expressed in LA following associative fear conditioning. Using oligonucleotide microarrays, we monitored gene expression in rats subjected to paired training where a tone co-terminates with a footshock, or unpaired training where the tone and footshock are presented in a non-overlapping manner. The paired protocol consistently leads to auditory fear conditioning memory formation, whereas the unpaired protocol does not. When the paired group was compared with the unpaired group 5 h after training, the expression of genes coding for the limbic system-associated membrane protein (Lsamp), kinesin heavy chain member 2 (Kif2), N-ethylmaleimide-sensitive fusion protein (NSF) and Hippocalcin-like 4 protein (Hpcal4) was higher in the paired group. These genes encode proteins that regulate neuronal axonal morphology (Lsamp, Kif2), presynaptic vesicle cycling and release (Hpcal4 and NSF), and AMPA receptor maintenance in synapses (NSF). Quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) showed that Kif2 and Lsamp are expressed hours following fear conditioning but minutes after unpaired training. Hpcal4 is induced by paired stimulation only 5 h after the training. These results show that fear conditioning induces a unique temporal activation of molecular pathways involved in regulating synaptic transmission and axonal morphology in LA, which is different from non-associative stimulation.

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