Journal article

Post-training administration of a synthetic peptide ligand of the neural cell adhesion molecule, C3d, attenuates long-term expression of contextual fear conditioning

The neural cell adhesion molecule (NCAM) plays a key role in synaptic plasticity and memory formation. We have recently developed a synthetic peptide, termed C3d, which, through the binding to the first, N-terminal immunoglobulin-like (Ig) module in the extracellular portion of NCAM, has been shown to promote neurite outgrowth and synapse formation in vitro, and to interfere with passive avoidance memory in rats in vivo. In this study, we investigated whether the i.c.v. administration of C3d, either 5.5 h after or 2 days before training, could be effective to modulate the strength at which emotional memory for aversive situations is established into a long-term memory. The effects of the peptide were evaluated in adult male Wistar rats trained in the contextual fear conditioning task. The results indicated that C3d significantly reduced the subsequent long-term retention of the conditioned fear response when administered 5.5 h post-training, as indicated by retention tests performed 2-3 and 7 days post-training. However, this treatment failed to influence conditioning for this task when injected 2 days pre-training. Additional experiments showed that C3d did not influence the emotional or locomotor behaviour of the animals, when tested in the open field task. Furthermore, hippocampal levels of microtubule-associated protein 2 (MAP2), Synaptophysin and NCAM were found unchanged when evaluated by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay in crude synaptosomal preparations 2 days after peptide i.c.v. injection. Therefore, post-training injection of this synthetic peptide was efficient to attenuate the strength at which memory for contextual fear conditioning was enduringly stored, whilst it did not affect the acquisition of new memories. In addition to further support the view that NCAM is critically involved in memory consolidation, the current findings suggest that the NCAM IgI module is a potential target for the development of therapeutic drugs capable to reduce the cognitive impact induced by exposure to intensive stress experiences.


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