The phosphorylation of proteins involved in the MAP kinase signal transduction pathway was investigated during associative learning of C57BL/6J mice. Context-dependent fear conditioning, consisting of a single exposure of mice to a context followed by foot shock, was employed as a learning paradigm. Control groups consisted of mice exposed to context only or an immediate shock in the context. Coincident up-regulation of phosphorylated Erk-1/2 and Elk-1 was observed in the CA3 hippocampal subfield and dentate gyrus 30 min after fear conditioning but not after the control paradigms. Phosphorylated Erk-1/2 and Elk-1 were associated and predominantly colocalized in the mossy fibers. In vitro kinase assays showed that hippocampal Erk-1/2 phosphorylates Elk-1. Notably, Elk-1 in turn enhances the phosphorylation of Erk-1/2 and its downstream target p90Rsk-1. Increased phosphorylation and nuclear translocation of p90Rsk-1 was also demonstrated in the CA3 hippocampal area in vivo during contextual fear conditioning. The observed interactions between hippocampal Elk-1 and Erk-1/2 proteins may affect the consolidation of contextual memories through activation of the downstream nuclear targets of Erk-1/2, such as p90Rsk-1, without requiring nuclear translocation of Elk-1 and Erk-1/2.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Cell Biology