Infoscience

Journal article

Regulation of hippocampal cell adhesion molecules NCAM and L1 by contextual fear conditioning is dependent upon time and stressor intensity

Cell adhesion molecules (CAMs) of the immunoglobulin superfamily, NCAM and L1, as well as the post-translational addition of alpha-2, 8-linked polysialic acid (PSA) homopolymers to NCAM (PSA-NCAM), have been implicated in the neural mechanisms underlying memory formation. Given that the degree of stress elicited by the training situation is one of the key factors that influence consolidation processes, this study questioned whether training rats under different stressor intensities (0.2, 0.4, or 1 mA shock intensity) in a contextual fear conditioning task might regulate subsequent expression of NCAM, PSA-NCAM and L1 in the hippocampus, as evaluated immediately after testing rats for conditioning at 12 and 24 h after training. Behavioural inhibition (evaluated as a 'freezing' index) at testing and post-testing plasma corticosterone levels were also assessed. The results showed that 12 h post-training, conditioned animals displayed reduced NCAM, but increased L1, expression. At this time point, the group trained at the highest shock intensity (1 mA) also presented decreased PSA-NCAM expression. Analyses performed 24 h post-training indicated that the 1 mA group exhibited increased NCAM and L1 expression, but decreased expression of PSA-NCAM levels. In addition, L1 values that presented a shock intensity-dependent U-shaped pattern were also increased in the group trained at the lowest shock condition (0.2 mA) and remained unchanged in the intermediate shock condition (0.4 mA). Freezing and corticosterone values at both testing times were positively related with shock intensity experienced at training. Therefore, our results show a complex regulation of CAMs of the immunoglobulin superfamily in the hippocampus that depends upon stressor intensity and time factors. In addition, the pattern of CAMs expression found in the 1 mA group (which is the one that shows higher post-training corticosterone levels and develops the stronger and longer-lasting levels of fear conditioning) supports the view that, after a first phase of synaptic de-adherence during consolidation, NCAM and L1 might participate in the stabilization of selected synapses underlying the establishment of long-term memory for contextual fear conditioning, and suggests that glucocorticoids might play a role in the observed regulation of CAMs.

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