Recent behavioral history modifies coupling between cell activity and Arc gene transcription in hippocampal CA1 neurons

John F. Guzowski, Teiko Miyashita, Monica K. Chawla, Jennifer Sanderson, Levi I. Maes, Frank P. Houston, Peter Lipa, Bruce L. McNaughton, Paul F. Worley, Carol A. Barnes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

152 Scopus citations


The ability of neurons to alter their transcriptional programs in response to synaptic input is of fundamental importance to the neuroplastic mechanisms underlying learning and memory. Because of technical limitations of conventional gene detection methods, the current view of activity-dependent neural transcription derives from experiments in which neurons are assumed quiescent until a signaling stimulus is given. The present study was designed to move beyond this static model by examining how earlier episodes of neural activity influence transcription of the immediate-early gene Arc. Using a sensitive FISH method that detects primary transcript at genomic alleles, the proportion of hippocampal CA1 neurons that activate transcription of Arc RNA was constant at ≈40% in response to both a single novel exploration session and daily sessions repeated over 9 days. This proportion is similar to the percentage of active neurons defined electrophysiologically. However, this close correspondence was disrupted in rats exposed briefly, but repeatedly, to the same environment within a single day. Arc transcription in CA1 neurons declined dramatically after as few as four 5-min sessions, despite stable electrophysiological activity during all sessions. Additional experiments indicate that the decrement in Arc transcription occurred at the cellular, rather than synaptic level, and was not simply linked to habituation to novelty. Thus, the neural genomic response is governed by recent, but not remote, cell firing history in the behaving animal. This state-dependence of neuronal transcriptional coupling provides a mechanism of metaplasticity and may regulate capacity for synaptic modification in neural networks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1077-1082
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 24 2006


  • Hippocampus
  • Immediate-early
  • Learning
  • Memory
  • Place field

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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