Age and experience dependent changes in Egr-1 expression during the ontogeny of the context preexposure facilitation effect (CPFE).Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2018 04; 150:1-12.NL
The context preexposure facilitation effect (CPFE) is a variant of contextual fear conditioning in which acquisition of the contextual representation and association of the retrieved contextual memory with an immediate foot-shock are separated by 24 h. During the CPFE, learning- related expression patterns of the early growth response-1 gene (Egr-1) vary based on training phase and brain sub-region in adult and adolescent rats (Asok, Schreiber, Jablonski, Rosen, & Stanton, 2013; Schreiber, Asok, Jablonski, Rosen, & Stanton, 2014; Chakraborty, Asok, Stanton, & Rosen, 2016). The current experiments extended our previous findings by examining Egr-1 expression in infant (PD17) and juvenile (PD24) rats during the CPFE using preexposure protocols involving single-exposure (SE) or multiple-exposure (ME) to context. Following a 5 min preexposure to the training context (i.e. the SE protocol), Egr-1 expression in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), dorsal hippocampus (dHPC) and lateral nucleus of the amygdala (LA) was differentially increased in PD24 rats relative to PD17 rats. In contrast, increased Egr-1 expression following an immediate foot-shock (2s, 1.5 mA) did not differ between PD17 and PD24 rats, and was not learning-related. Interestingly, increasing the number of exposures to the training chamber on the preexposure day (i.e. ME protocol) altered training-day expression such that a learning-related increase in expression was observed in the mPFC in PD24 but not PD17 rats. Together, these results illustrate a clear maturation of Egr-1 expression that is both age- and experience-dependent. In addition, the data suggest that regional activity and plasticity within the mPFC on the preexposure but not the training day may contribute to the ontogenetic profile of the effect. Further studies are necessary to elucidate the causal role of sub-region-specific neuroplasticity in the ontogeny of the CPFE.