We report activation of the immediate-early gene Egr-1 in the lateral amygdala (LA), hippocampus (CA1), and medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) 30-min following the training phase in the context pre-exposure facilitation effect (CPFE) and standard context fear conditioning (180 s context exposure→shock). On day one of the CPFE paradigm, postnatal day (PD) 31 rats (±1) were pre-exposed to Context A (Pre) or Context B (Alt-Pre) for 5 min followed by five additional 1-min exposures. A day later, Pre and Alt-Pre rats received a 2-s, 1.5 mA footshock immediately upon placement in Context A. Animals included in in situ hybridization were then sacrificed 30 (±3) min later. On day three, the behaviorally-tested Pre rats showed significantly more fear-conditioned freezing in Context A than Alt-Pre rats. Standard context fear conditioning groups showed much greater freezing than the Pre group, as well as no shock and immediate-shock controls. Thirty minutes after immediate shock training, Pre rats showed increased Egr-1 mRNA in the prelimbic mPFC relative to Alt-Pre rats. Standard context conditioning selectively increased Egr-1 in CA1. In the LA and mPFC, Egr-1 increased to a similar extent in no shock, immediate shock, and standard context conditioning relative to homecage controls. The present study demonstrates that Egr-1 mRNA expression has a complex relationship to fear learning in different brain regions and variants of context conditioning.
Keywords: Amygdala; CPFE; Context fear conditioning; Egr-1; Hippocampus; Prefrontal cortex.
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