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Neuroscience. 1997 Nov;81(1):93-112.

Effect of electrical stimulation of the cerebral cortex on the expression of the Fos protein in the basal ganglia.

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Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Department de Neurochimie-Anatomie, U.R.A. 1488, Paris, France.


The protein Fos is a transcription factor which is quickly induced in response to a variety of extracellular signals. Since this protein is expressed in a variety of neuronal systems in response to activation of synaptic afferents, it has been suggested that it might contribute to activity-dependent plasticity in neural networks. The present study investigated the effect of cortical electrical stimulation on the expression of Fos in the basal ganglia in the rat, a group of structures that participate in sensorimotor learning. Results show that the repetitive application of electrical shocks in restricted areas of the cerebral cortex induces an expression of Fos mostly confined to the striatum and the subthalamic nucleus. The induction which can be elicited from different cortical areas (sensorimotor, auditory and limbic areas) does not require particular temporal patterns of stimulation but rather depends on the total number of shocks delivered during a given period of time. Moreover, it appears to be rather independent of the number of spikes discharged by the activated cells. In the striatum, the distribution of immunoreactive neurons is precisely delineated and conforms to the known topographical organization of stimulated corticostriatal projections. As demonstrated using a variety of double labelling techniques (combination of the immunocytochemical detection of Fos with the autoradiography of mu opioid receptors, calbindin immunocytochemistry, in situ hybridization of preproenkephalin and preprotachykinin A messenger RNAs), striatal neurons which express Fos are mostly localized in the matrix compartment and concern equally enkephaline and substance P containing efferent neurons. In the subthalamic nucleus, Fos expression evoked by cortical stimulation is also confined to discrete regions of the nucleus, the localizations corresponding to the primary projection site of the stimulated cortical cells. These results indicate that in addition to its phasic synaptic influence on the basal ganglia, the cerebral cortex could exert a long-term effect on the functional state of this system via a genomic control. Since the basal ganglia are involved in sensorimotor learning and motor habit formation, it is tempting to speculate that the activity-dependent Fos induction at corticostriatal and subthalamic synapses may contribute to consolidate the functionality of the neuronal networks activated during the completion of given motor tasks.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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