Activation and function of immediate-early genes in the nervous system

Biochem Cell Biol. 2011 Feb;89(1):61-73. doi: 10.1139/O10-138.


Immediate-early genes have important roles in processes such as brain development, learning, and responses to drug abuse. Further, immediate-early genes play an essential role in cellular responses that contribute to long-term neuronal plasticity. Neuronal plasticity is a characteristic of the nervous system that is not limited to the first stages of brain development but persists in adulthood and seems to be an inherent feature of everyday brain function. The plasticity refers to the neuron's capability of showing short- or long-lasting phenotypic changes in response to different stimuli and cellular scenarios. In this review, we focus on the immediate-early genes encoding transcription factors (AP-1 and Egr) that are relevant for neuronal responses. Our current understanding of the mechanisms involved in the induction of the immediate-early genes is presented.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Brain / physiology
  • Early Growth Response Protein 1 / chemistry
  • Early Growth Response Protein 1 / genetics*
  • Genes, Immediate-Early / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Nervous System Physiological Phenomena / genetics*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / genetics
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Signal Transduction / genetics
  • Transcription Factor AP-1 / chemistry
  • Transcription Factor AP-1 / genetics*
  • Transcription Factors / chemistry
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcriptional Activation / genetics*


  • Early Growth Response Protein 1
  • Transcription Factor AP-1
  • Transcription Factors