It is now clearly established that complex interactions between genes and environment are involved in multiple aspects of neuropsychiatric disorders, from determining an individual's vulnerability to onset, to influencing its response to therapeutic intervention. In this perspective, it appears crucial to better understand how the organism reacts to environmental stimuli and provide a coordinated and adapted response. In the central nervous system, neuronal plasticity and neurotransmission are among the major processes integrating such complex interactions between genes and environmental stimuli. In particular, immediate early genes (IEGs) are critical components of these interactions as they provide the molecular framework for a rapid and dynamic response to neuronal activity while opening the possibility for a lasting and sustained adaptation through regulation of the expression of a wide range of genes. As a result, IEGs have been tightly associated with neuronal activity as well as a variety of higher order processes within the central nervous system such as learning, memory and sensitivity to reward. The immediate early gene and transcription factor early growth response 1 (EGR1) has thus been revealed as a major mediator and regulator of synaptic plasticity and neuronal activity in both physiological and pathological conditions. In this review article, we will focus on the role of EGR1 in the central nervous system. First, we will summarize the different factors influencing its activity. Then, we will analyze the amount of data, including genome-wide, that has emerged in the recent years describing the wide variety of genes, pathways and biological functions regulated directly or indirectly by EGR1. We will thus be able to gain better insights into the mechanisms underlying EGR1's functions in physiological neuronal activity. Finally, we will discuss and illustrate the role of EGR1 in pathological states with a particular interest in cognitive functions and neuropsychiatric disorders.
Keywords: Zif268; anxiety; early growth response 1; memory; stress; synaptic plasticity.