Inbred mouse strains have different genetic backgrounds that can result in impairments of synaptic plasticity and memory. They are valuable models for probing the mechanisms of memory impairments. We examined fear memory in several inbred strains, along with synaptic plasticity that may underlie fear memory. Long-term potentiation (LTP) is a form of activity-dependent synaptic plasticity that is a candidate cellular mechanism for some forms of learning and memory. Strains with impaired contextual or cued fear memory may have selective LTP deficits in different hippocampal subregions, or in the amygdala. We measured fear memory and its extinction in five inbred strains: C57BL/6NCrlBR (B6), A/J, BALB/cByJ (BALB), C57BL/10J (B10), and SM/J (SM). We also measured LTP in the basolateral amygdala and in the hippocampal Schaeffer collateral-commissural (SC) and medial perforant pathways (MPP). All strains exhibited intact contextual fear memory 24 h post-training, but cued fear memory was impaired in strains A/J, BALB, and SM. At 1 h post-training, both contextual and cued fear memory deficits were more widespread: all strains except for B6 and B10 showed impairments of both types of memory. Contextual fear extinction was impaired in BALB and SM. We found that amygdalar LTP was reduced in strains A/J and BALB, but SC LTP was intact in all strains (except for a selective multi-train LTP impairment in BALB). MPPLTP was similar in all five strains. Thus, reduced amygdalar LTP is correlated with impaired cued fear memory in strains A/J and BALB. Also, hippocampal SC LTP is more strongly correlated with 24-h (long-term) than with 1-h (short-term) contextual fear memory. In this first conjoint study of amygdala-dependent memory and amygdalar LTP in inbred mice, we identified specific hippocampal and amygdalar LTP deficits that correlate with fear memory impairments. These deficits should be considered when selecting inbred strains for genetic modification.
(c) 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.