Visualizing changes in circuit activity resulting from denervation and reinnervation using immediate early gene expression

Meredith D. Temple, Paul F. Worley, Oswald Steward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


We describe a novel strategy to evaluate circuit function after brain injury that takes advantage of experience-dependent immediate early gene (IEG) expression. When normal rats undergo training or are exposed to a novel environment, there is a strong induction of IEG expression in forebrain regions, including the hippocampus. This gene induction identifies the neurons that are engaged during the experience. Here, we demonstrate that experience-dependent IEG induction is diminished after brain injury in young adult rats (120-200 gm), specifically after unilateral lesions of the entorhinal cortex (EC), and then recovers with a time course consistent with reinnervation. In situ hybridization techniques were used to assess the expression of the activity-regulated cytoskeleton-associated protein Arc at various times after the lesion (4, 8, 12, 16, or 30 d). One group of rats was allowed to explore a complex novel environment for 1 hr; control operated animals remained in their home cage. In unoperated animals, exposure to the novel environment induced Arc mRNA levels in most pyramidal neurons in CA1, in many pyramidal neurons in CA3, and in a small number of dentate granule cells. This characteristic pattern of induction was absent at early time points after unilateral EC lesions (4 and 8 d) but recovered progressively at later time points. The recovery of Arc expression occurred with approximately the same time course as the reinnervation of the dentate gyrus as a result of postlesion sprouting. These results document a novel approach for quantitatively assessing activity-regulated gene expression in polysynaptic circuits after trauma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2779-2788
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 1 2003


  • Arc
  • Denervation
  • Diaschisis
  • Entorhinal cortex
  • Fimbria-fornix
  • Hippocampus
  • Immediate early gene
  • Rat
  • Recovery of function
  • Reinnervation
  • Sprouting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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