The activity-regulated cytoskeletal-associated protein (Arc/Arg3.1) is an immediate early gene that has been widely implicated in hippocampal-dependent learning and memory and is believed to play an integral role in synapse-specific plasticity. Here, we examined the role of Arc/Arg3.1 in amygdala-dependent Pavlovian fear conditioning. We first examined the regulation of Arc/Arg3.1 mRNA and protein after fear conditioning and LTP-inducing stimulation of thalamic inputs to the lateral amygdala (LA). Quantitative real-time PCR, in situ hybridization, Western blotting and immunohistochemistry revealed a significant upregulation of Arc/Arg3.1 mRNA and protein in the LA relative to controls. In behavioral experiments, intra-LA infusion of an Arc/Arg3.1 antisense oligodeoxynucleotide (ODN) was observed to be anatomically restricted to the LA, taken up by LA cells, and to promote significant knockdown of Arc/Arg3.1 protein. Rats given intra-LA infusions of multiple doses of the Arc/Arg3.1 ODN showed an impairment of LTM (tested ∼24 later), but no deficit in STM (tested 3 h later) relative to controls infused with scrambled ODN. Finally, to determine whether upregulation of Arc/Arg3.1 occurs downstream of ERK/MAPK activation, we examined Arc/Arg3.1 expression in rats given intra-LA infusion of the MEK inhibitor U0126. Relative to vehicle controls, infusion of U0126 impaired training-induced increases in Arc/Arg3.1 expression. These findings suggest that Arc/Arg3.1 expression in the amygdala is required for fear memory consolidation, and further suggest that Arc/Arg3.1 regulation in the LA is downstream of the ERK/MAPK signaling pathway.
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