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PLoS One. 2011;6(8):e23760. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0023760. Epub 2011 Aug 22.

The neuronal PAS domain protein 4 (Npas4) is required for new and reactivated fear memories.

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School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, University of Texas at Dallas, Richardson, Texas, United States of America.


The Neuronal PAS domain protein 4 (Npas4) is a neuronal activity-dependent immediate early gene that has recently been identified as a transcription factor which regulates the transcription of genes that control inhibitory synapse development and synaptic plasticity. The role Npas4 in learning and memory, however, is currently unknown. Here, we systematically examine the role of Npas4 in auditory Pavlovian fear conditioning, an amygdala-dependent form of emotional learning. In our first series of experiments, we show that Npas4 mRNA and protein are regulated in the rat lateral nucleus of the amygdala (LA) in a learning-dependent manner. Further, knockdown of Npas4 protein in the LA via adeno-associated viral (AAV) mediated gene delivery of RNAi was observed to impair fear memory formation, while innate fear and the expression of fear memory were not affected. In our second series of experiments, we show that Npas4 protein is regulated in the LA by retrieval of an auditory fear memory and that knockdown of Npas4 in the LA impairs retention of a reactivated, but not a non-reactivated, fear memory. Collectively, our findings provide the first comprehensive look at the functional role of Npas4 in learning and memory.

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