A key role for nectin-1 in the ventral hippocampus in contextual fear memory
Nectins are cell adhesion molecules that are widely expressed in the brain. Nectin expression shows a dynamic spatiotemporal regulation, playing a role in neural migratory processes during development. Nectin-1 and nectin-3 and their heterophilic trans-interactions are important for the proper formation of synapses. In the hippocampus, nectin-1 and nectin-3 localize at puncta adherentia junctions and may play a role in synaptic plasticity, a mechanism essential for memory and learning. We evaluated the potential involvement of nectin-1 and nectin-3 in memory consolidation using an emotional learning paradigm. Rats trained for contextual fear conditioning showed transient nectin-1—but not nectin-3—protein upregulation in synapse-enriched hippocampal fractions at about 2 h posttraining. The upregulation of nectin-1 was found exclusively in the ventral hippocampus and was apparent in the synaptoneurosomal fraction. This upregulation was induced by contextual fear conditioning but not by exposure to context or shock alone. When an antibody against nectin-1, R165, was infused in the ventral-hippocampus immediately after training, contextual fear memory was impaired. However, treatment with the antibody in the dorsal hippocampus had no effect in contextual fear memory formation. Similarly, treatment with the antibody in the ventral hippocampus did not interfere with acoustic memory formation. Further control experiments indicated that the effects of ventral hippocampal infusion of the nectin-1 antibody in contextual fear memory cannot be ascribed to memory non-specific effects such as changes in anxiety-like behavior or locomotor behavior. Therefore, we conclude that nectin-1 recruitment to the perisynaptic environment in the ventral hippocampus plays an important role in the formation of contextual fear memories. Our results suggest that these mechanisms could be involved in the connection of emotional and contextual information processed in the amygdala and dorsal hippocampus, respectively, thus opening new venues for the development of treatments to psychopathological alterations linked to impaired contextualization of emotions.