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      Analysis of the Stress Response in Rats Trained in the Water-Maze: Differential Expression of Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone, CRH-R1, Glucocorticoid Receptors and Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor in Limbic Regions

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          Glucocorticoids and corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) are key regulators of stress responses. Different types of stress activate the CRH system; in hypothalamus, CRH expression and release are increased by physical or psychological stressors while in amygdala, preferentially by psychological stress. Learning and memory processes are modulated by glucocorticoids and stress at different levels. To characterize the kind of stress provoked by a hippocampal-dependent task such as spatial learning, we compared the expression profile of glucocorticoid receptor (GR), pro-CRH and CRH-R1 mRNAs (analyzed by RT-PCR), in amygdala, hippocampus and hypothalamus and quantified serum corticosterone levels by radioimmunoassay at different stages of training. mRNA levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) were also quantified due to its prominent role in learning and memory processes. Male Wistar rats trained for 1, 3 or 5 days in the Morris water-maze (10 trials/day) were sacrificed 5–60 min the after last trial. A strong stress response occurred at day one in both yoked and trained animals (increased corticosterone and hypothalamic pro-CRH and CRH-R1 mRNA levels); changes gradually diminished as the test progressed. In amygdala, pro-CRH mRNA levels decreased while those of BDNF augmented when stress was highest, in yoked and trained animals. Hippocampi, of both yoked and trained groups, had decreased levels of GR mRNA on days 1 and 3, normalizing by day 5, while those of pro-CRH and CRH-R1 increased after the 3rd day. Increased gene expression, specifically due to spatial learning, occurred only for hippocampal BDNF since day 3. These results show that the Morris water-maze paradigm induces a strong stress response that is gradually attenuated. Inhibition of CRH expression in amygdala suggests that the stress inflicted is of physical but not of psychological nature and could lead to reduced fear or anxiety.

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          Most cited references 41

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          Single-step method of RNA isolation by acid guanidinium thiocyanate-phenol-chloroform extraction.

          A new method of total RNA isolation by a single extraction with an acid guanidinium thiocyanate-phenol-chloroform mixture is described. The method provides a pure preparation of undegraded RNA in high yield and can be completed within 4 h. It is particularly useful for processing large numbers of samples and for isolation of RNA from minute quantities of cells or tissue samples.
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            Regional dissociations within the hippocampus--memory and anxiety.

            The amnestic effects of hippocampal lesions are well documented, leading to numerous memory-based theories of hippocampal function. It is debatable, however, whether any one of these theories can satisfactorily account for all the consequences of hippocampal damage: Hippocampal lesions also result in behavioural disinhibition and reduced anxiety. A growing number of studies now suggest that these diverse behavioural effects may be associated with different hippocampal subregions. There is evidence for at least two distinct functional domains, although recent neuroanatomical studies suggest this may be an underestimate. Selective lesion studies show that the hippocampus is functionally subdivided along the septotemporal axis into dorsal and ventral regions, each associated with a distinct set of behaviours. Dorsal hippocampus has a preferential role in certain forms of learning and memory, notably spatial learning, but ventral hippocampus may have a preferential role in brain processes associated with anxiety-related behaviours. The latter's role in emotional processing is also distinct from that of the amygdala, which is associated specifically with fear. Gray and McNaughton's theory can in principle incorporate these apparently distinct hippocampal functions, and provides a plausible unitary account for the multiple facets of hippocampal function.
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              Brain-derived neurotrophic factor/TrkB signaling in memory processes.

              Activity-dependent changes in synaptic strength are considered mechanisms underlying learning and memory. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) plays an important role in activity-dependent synaptic plasticity such as long-term potentiation. Recent experimental evidence supports the role of BDNF in memory processes: Memory acquisition and consolidation are associated with an increase in BDNF mRNA expression and the activation of its receptor TrkB. Genetic as well as pharmacologic deprivation of BDNF or TrkB impairs learning and memory. In a positively motivated radial arm maze test, activation of the TrkB/phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase (PI3-K) signaling pathway in the hippocampus is associated with consolidation of spatial memory through an activation of translational processes. In a negatively motivated passive avoidance test, mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) is activated during acquisition of fear memory. Furthermore, recent findings suggest the importance of interaction between BDNF/TrkB signaling and NMDA receptors for spatial memory. A Src-family tyrosine kinase, Fyn plays a role in this interaction by linking TrkB with NR2B. These findings suggest that BDNF/TrkB signaling in the hippocampus plays a crucial role in learning and memory.

                Author and article information

                S. Karger AG
                May 2006
                31 May 2006
                : 82
                : 5-6
                : 306-319
                aDepartamento de Genética del Desarrollo y Fisiología Molecular, Instituto de Biotecnología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), bDivisión de Investigaciones en Neurociencias, Instituto Nacional de Psiquiatría Ramón de la Fuente Muñíz, México, cDepartamento de Neurociencias, Instituto de Fisiología Celular, UNAM, and dDepartamento de Neurobiología Conductual y Cognitiva, Instituto de Neurobiología, UNAM, Mexico
                93129 Neuroendocrinology 2005;82:306–319
                © 2005 S. Karger AG, Basel

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                Page count
                Figures: 5, References: 61, Pages: 14
                Original Paper


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