Fear conditioning, a behavioral model for studying fear-related disorders, is believed to be formed by alterations of synaptic efficacy mediated by changes in synaptic transmission and neuronal morphology in lateral amygdala (LA). Rac GTPase and its downstream effector p21-activated kinase (PAK) are involved in such key neuronal functions. Here we show that optical activation of Rac1 GTPase using photoactivatable form of Rac1 (PA-Rac1) in amygdala led to phosphorylation of PAK and inhibition of long-term but not short-term auditory fear conditioning memory formation. Activation of PA-Rac1 in LA one day after fear conditioning had no effect on long-term fear memory tested 24 hrs after PA-Rac1 activation. Inhibition of PAK in LA by microinjection of the PAK inhibitor IPA-3 30 minutes before fear conditioning enhanced long-term but not short-term fear memory formation. Our results demonstrate that photoactivation of Rac1 GTPase in lateral amygdala impairs fear memory formation. Moreover, Rac1 effector PAK activity during fear conditioning constrains the formation of fear memory in LA. Thus, Rac GTPase and PAK proteins may serve as targets for treatment of fear and anxiety disorders.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© 2017 The Author(s).
ASJC Scopus subject areas