Fear conditioning leads to long-term fear memory formation and is a model for studying fear-related psychopathological conditions such as phobias and post-traumatic stress disorder. Long-term fear memory formation is believed to involve alterations of synaptic efficacy mediated by changes in synaptic transmission and morphology in lateral amygdala (LA). Nck1 is a key neuronal adaptor protein involved in the regulation of the actin cytoskeleton and the neuronal processes believed to be involved in memory formation. However, the role of Nck1 in memory formation is not known. Here we explored the role of Nck1 in fear memory formation in lateral amygdala (LA). Reduction of Nck1 in excitatory neurons in LA enhanced long-term, but not short-term, auditory fear conditioning memory. Activation of Nck1, by using a photoactivatable Nck1 (PA-Nck1), during auditory fear conditioning in excitatory neurons in LA impaired long-term, but not short-term, fear memory. Activation of Nck1 immediately or a day after fear conditioning did not affect fear memory. The hippocampal-mediated contextual fear memory was not affected by the reduction or activation of Nck1 in LA. We show that Nck1 is localized to the presynapses in LA. Nck1 activation in LA excitatory neurons decreased the frequency of AMPA receptors-mediated miniature excitatory synaptic currents (mEPSCs). Nck1 activation did not affect GABA receptor-mediated inhibitory synaptic currents (mIPSCs). These results show that Nck1 activity in excitatory neurons in LA regulates glutamate release and sets the threshold for fear memory formation. Moreover, our research shows that Nck1 may serve as a target for pharmacological treatment of fear and anxiety disorders.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Psychiatry and Mental health
- Biological Psychiatry
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience