Amygdala nuclei critical for emotional learning exhibit unique gene expression patterns

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Abstract

The amygdala is a heterogeneous, medial temporal lobe structure that has been implicated in the formation, expression and extinction of emotional memories. This structure is composed of numerous nuclei that vary in cytoarchitectonics and neural connections. In particular the Lateral nucleus of the Amygdala (LA), Central nucleus of the Amygdala (CeA), and the Basal (B) nucleus contribute an essential role to emotional learning. However, to date it is still unclear to what extent these nuclei differ at the molecular level. Therefore we have performed whole genome gene expression analysis on these nuclei to gain a better understanding of the molecular differences and similarities among these nuclei. Specifically the LA, CeA and B nuclei were laser microdissected from the rat brain, and total RNA was isolated from these nuclei and subjected to RNA amplification. Amplified RNA was analyzed by whole genome microarray analysis which revealed that 129 genes are differentially expressed among these nuclei. Notably gene expression patterns differed between the CeA nucleus and the LA and B nuclei. However gene expression differences were not considerably different between the LA and B nuclei. Secondary confirmation of numerous genes was performed by in situ hybridization to validate the microarray findings, which also revealed that for many genes, expression differences among these nuclei were consistent with the embryological origins of these nuclei. Knowing the stable gene expression differences among these nuclei will provide novel avenues of investigation into how these nuclei contribute to emotional arousal and emotional learning, and potentially offer new genetic targets to manipulate emotional learning and memory.

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