Exploration of a novel environment leads to the expression of inducible transcription factors in barrel-related columns

Neuroscience. 2000;99(1):7-16. doi: 10.1016/s0306-4522(00)00166-4.


Tactile information acquired through the vibrissae is of high behavioral relevance for rodents. Numerous physiological studies have shown adaptive plasticity of cortical receptive field properties due to stimulation and/or manipulation of the whiskers. However, the cellular mechanisms leading to these plastic processes remain largely unknown. Although genomic responses are anticipated to take place in this sequel, virtually no data so far exist for freely behaving animals concerning this issue. Thus, adult rats were placed overnight in an enriched environment and most of them were also subjected to clipping of different sets of whiskers. This type of stimulation led to a specific and statistically significant increase in the expression of the protein products of the inducible transcription factors c-Fos, JunB, inducible cyclic-AMP early repressor and Krox-24 (also frequently named Zif268 or Egr-1), but not c-Jun. The response was found in columns of the barrel cortex corresponding to the stimulated vibrissae; it displayed a layer-specific pattern. However, no induction of transcription factors was observed in the subcortical relay stations of the whisker-to-barrel pathway, i.e. the trigeminal nuclei and the ventrobasal complex. These results strongly suggest that a coordinated transcriptional response is initiated in the barrel cortex as a consequence of processing of novel environmental stimuli.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cyclic AMP Response Element Modulator
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Early Growth Response Protein 1
  • Exploratory Behavior / physiology*
  • Immediate-Early Proteins*
  • Male
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-jun / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Repressor Proteins / metabolism
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiology*
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Vibrissae / metabolism*


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Early Growth Response Protein 1
  • Egr1 protein, rat
  • Immediate-Early Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-jun
  • Repressor Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • Cyclic AMP Response Element Modulator