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Biol Psychiatry Cogn Neurosci Neuroimaging. 2017 Mar;2(2):158-169. doi: 10.1016/j.bpsc.2016.10.002.

Encoding of contextual fear memory requires de novo proteins in the prelimbic cortex.

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Department of Neuroscience, The Scripps Research Institute, Scripps Florida 130 Scripps Way, Jupiter, FL 33458.
Department of Psychology, Center for Complex Systems & Brain Sciences, College of Science, Florida Atlantic University, Jupiter, FL 33458.
Department of Medicine and Institute for Computational Biomedicine, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York. NY10065. USA.



Despite our understanding of the significance of the prefrontal cortex in the consolidation of long-term memories (LTM), its role in the encoding of LTM remains elusive. Here we investigated the role of new protein synthesis in the mouse medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) in encoding contextual fear memory.


Because a change in the association of mRNAs to polyribosomes is an indicator of new protein synthesis, we assessed the changes in polyribosome-associated mRNAs in the mPFC following contextual fear conditioning (CFC) in the mouse. Differential gene expression in mPFC was identified by polyribosome profiling (n = 18). The role of new protein synthesis in mPFC was determined by focal inhibition of protein synthesis (n = 131) and by intra-prelimbic cortex manipulation (n = 56) of Homer 3, a candidate identified from polyribosome profiling.


We identified several mRNAs that are differentially and temporally recruited to polyribosomes in the mPFC following CFC. Inhibition of protein synthesis in the prelimbic (PL), but not in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) region of the mPFC immediately after CFC disrupted encoding of contextual fear memory. Intriguingly, inhibition of new protein synthesis in the PL 6 hours after CFC did not impair encoding. Furthermore, expression of Homer 3, an mRNA enriched in polyribosomes following CFC, in the PL constrained encoding of contextual fear memory.


Our studies identify several molecular substrates of new protein synthesis in the mPFC and establish that encoding of contextual fear memories require new protein synthesis in PL subregion of mPFC.


encoding; fear memory; genomics; polyribosomes; prefrontal cortex; protein synthesis; signaling pathways

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