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Keywords:

  • U0126;
  • amygdala;
  • extinction;
  • fear conditioning;
  • MAP kinase

Abstract

Whereas the neuronal substrates underlying the acquisition of auditory fear conditioning have been widely studied, the substrates and mechanisms mediating the acquisition of fear extinction remain largely elusive. Previous reports indicate that consolidation of fear extinction depends on the mitogen-activated protein kinase/extracellular-signal regulated kinase (MAPK/ERK) signalling pathway and on protein synthesis in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). Based on experiments using the fear-potentiated startle paradigm suggesting a role for neuronal plasticity in the basolateral amygdala (BLA) during fear extinction, we directly addressed whether MAPK/ERK signalling in the basolateral amygdala is necessary for the acquisition of fear extinction using conditioned freezing as a read-out. First, we investigated the regional and temporal pattern of MAPK/ERK activation in the BLA following extinction learning in C57Bl/6J mice. Our results indicate that acquisition of extinction is associated with an increase of phosphorylated MAPK/ERK in the BLA. Moreover, we found that inhibition of the MAPK/ERK signalling pathway by intrabasolateral amygdala infusion of the MEK inhibitor, U0126, completely blocks acquisition of extinction. Thus, our results indicate that the MAPK/ERK signalling pathway is required for extinction of auditory fear conditioning in the BLA, and support a role for neuronal plasticity in the BLA during the acquisition of fear extinction.