Immediate-early genes, neuronal plasticity, and memory

Biochem Cell Biol. 1992 Sep;70(9):729-37. doi: 10.1139/o92-112.


The demonstration that the immediate-early gene c-fos is rapidly and transiently expressed in brain following a variety of manipulations has led to intense study of these genes to determine what physiological role they play. The very wide range of stimuli which lead to induction of immediate-early genes (IEGs) in the brain has raised concerns for the specificity of their actions and the suggestion that they might merely be involved in housekeeping functions. On the other hand, there is evidence that these genes may play a role in the transmission of information from cell surface receptors to the genetic material in many instances of neuronal plasticity, including development of seizure susceptibility (kindling), long-term potentiation, drug-induced changes, the phase shift in circadian rhythms, and spreading neuronal depression. In addition to being a putative third (or fourth) messenger involved in transduction of signals to the genetic material, activation of IEGs has proven to be a useful tool for the study of transsynaptic activation of certain neuronal pathways in the brain. Thus, studies on the induction of IEGs are proving to be especially useful in understanding some important functions and properties of the mammalian brain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antisense Elements (Genetics)
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Gene Expression Regulation / physiology
  • Genes, fos / genetics*
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / genetics*
  • Oligonucleotide Probes


  • Antisense Elements (Genetics)
  • Oligonucleotide Probes