Stress-altered synaptic plasticity and DAMP signaling in the hippocampus-PFC axis; elucidating the significance of IGF-1/IGF-1R/CaMKIIα expression in neural changes associated with a prolonged exposure therapy

Document Type


Publication Date



Traumatic stress patients showed significant improvement in behavior after a prolonged exposure to an unrelated stimulus. This treatment method attempts to promote extinction of the fear memory associated with the initial traumatic experience. However, the subsequent prolonged exposure to such stimulus creates an additional layer of neural stress. Although the mechanism remains unclear, prolonged exposure therapy (PET) likely involves changes in synaptic plasticity, neurotransmitter function and inflammation; especially in parts of the brain concerned with the formation and retrieval of fear memory (Hippocampus and Prefrontal Cortex: PFC). Since certain synaptic proteins are also involved in danger-associated molecular pattern signaling (DAMP), we identified the significance of IGF-1/IGF-1R/CaMKIIα expression as a potential link between the concurrent progression of synaptic and inflammatory changes in stress. Thus, a comparison between IGF-1/IGF-1R/CaMKIIα, synaptic and DAMP proteins in stress and PET may highlight the significance of PET on synaptic morphology and neuronal inflammatory response. In behaviorally characterized Sprague-Dawley rats, there was a significant decline in neural IGF-1 (p<0.001), hippocampal (p<0.001) and cortical (p<0.05) IGF-1R expression. These animals showed a significant loss of presynaptic markers (synaptophysin; p<0.001), and changes in neurotransmitters (VGLUT2, Tyrosine hydroxylase, GABA, ChAT). Furthermore, naïve stressed rats recorded a significant decrease in post-synaptic marker (PSD-95; p<0.01) and synaptic regulator (CaMKIIα; p<0.001). As part of the synaptic response to a decrease in brain CaMKIIα, small ion conductance channel (KCa2.2) was upregulated in the brain of naïve stressed rats (p<0.01). After a PET, an increase in IGF-1 (p<0.05) and IGF-1R was recorded in the Stress-PET group (p<0.001). As such, hippocampal (p<0.001), but not cortical (ns) synaptophysin expression increased in Stress-PET. Although PSD-95 was relatively unchanged in the hippocampus and PFC, CaMKIIα (p<0.001) and KCa2.2 (p<0.01) were upregulated in Stress-PET, and may be involved in extinction of fear memory-related synaptic potentials. These changes were also associated with a normalized neurotransmitter function, and a significant reduction in open space avoidance; when the animals were assessed in elevated plus maze (EPM). In addition to a decrease in IGF-1/IGF-1R, an increase in activated hippocampal and cortical microglia was seen in stress (p<0.05) and after a PET (Stress-PET; p<0.001). Furthermore, this was linked with a significant increase in HMGB1 (Hippocampus: p<0.001, PFC: p<0.05) and TLR4 expression (Hippocampus: p<0.01; PFC: ns) in the neurons. Taken together, this study showed that traumatic stress and subsequent PET involves an event-dependent alteration of IGF1/IGF-1R/CaMKIIα. Firstly, we showed a direct relationship between IGF-1/IGF-1R expression, presynaptic function (synaptophysin) and neurotransmitter activity in stress and PET. Secondly, we identified the possible role of CaMKIIα in post-synaptic function and regulation of small ion conductance channels. Lastly, we highlighted some of the possible links between IGF1/IGF-1R/CaMKIIα, the expression of DAMP proteins, Microglia activation, and its implication on synaptic plasticity during stress and PET.

Publication Source (Journal or Book title)


First Page


Last Page


This document is currently not available here.