Thresholds for synaptic activation of transcription factors in hippocampus: Correlation with long-term enhancement

P. F. Worley, R. V. Bhat, J. M. Baraban, C. A. Erickson, B. L. McNaughton, C. A. Barnes

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Recent studies suggest a role for rapid induction of transcription factors in stimulus-induced neuronal plasticity in the mammalian brain. Synaptic activation of transcription factors has been analyzed in the hippocampus using the long-term potentiation or enhancement (LTP/LTE) paradigm. Using this approach, several studies have identified transcription factors that are induced in hippocampal granule cells by NMDA receptor-dependent mechanisms; however, the link between long-term plasticity and activation of these genes has been called into question by reports suggesting that the thresholds for LTE and gene activation differ. To address this issue, we have used a chronic in vivo recording technique to monitor mRNA responses of several transcription factor genes to two different patterns of LTE-inducing electrical stimulation of entorhinal cortical afferents to hippocampus. One pattern consisted of 10 repetitions of a 20 or 25 msec train of pulses at 400 Hz (80 or 100 pulses total). This '10-train' pattern has been used in previous studies of LTE and produces robust synaptic enhancement lasting at least 3 d (Barnes, 1979). The other stimulation pattern consisted of 50 repetitions of a 20 msec train delivered at 400 Hz (400 pulses total), which is similar to parameters used in other studies reporting induction of c-fos in association with LTE (Dragunow et al., 1989; Jeffery et al., 1990; Abraham et al., 1992). Our results indicate that expression of zif268, monitored by in situ hybridization and immunostaining, is strongly induced by the 10- train stimulus pattern to levels similar to those induced by seizure activity. JunB mRNA levels are also modestly increased by the 10-train stimulus pattern; however, increases in JunB immunostaining were not detected. Neither c-fos nor c-jun mRNA were detectably induced by this stimulus. In contrast, the 50-train stimulus pattern resulted in a robust induction of c-fos and c-jun mRNA, in addition to zif268 and junB. Transcription factor responses to either stimulus pattern were blocked by the noncompetitive NMDA receptor antagonist MK-801. Identical transcription factor responses were observed in adult (6-12-month-old) and aged (23-26- month-old) rats, suggesting that synaptic mechanisms involved in these responses are preserved in aged animals. Analysis of LTE following either the 10- or 50-train stimulus patterns revealed identical magnitudes of initial induction and decay kinetics (~3 d) and indicates that the 10-train stimulus pattern is sufficient to produce maximal synaptic enhancement. These studies define distinct thresholds for NMDA-dependent induction of transcription factors in hippocampus and indicate that, of the transcription factor genes examined, only the threshold for activation of zif268 is similar to that for LTE.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4776-4786
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1993


  • Krox20
  • NMDA receptor
  • c- fos
  • c-jun
  • fosB
  • immediate-early genes
  • junB
  • long-term potentiation
  • nur77
  • zif268

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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