Research ArticleNEUROSCIENCE

Fear extinction requires ASIC1a-dependent regulation of hippocampal-prefrontal correlates

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Science Advances  24 Oct 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 10, eaau3075
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aau3075


Extinction of conditioned fear necessitates the dynamic involvement of hippocampus, medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), and basolateral amygdala (BLA), but key molecular players that regulate these circuits to achieve fear extinction remain largely unknown. Here, we report that acid-sensing ion channel 1a (ASIC1a) is a crucial molecular regulator of fear extinction, and that this function requires ASIC1a in ventral hippocampus (vHPC), but not dorsal hippocampus, mPFC, or BLA. While genetic disruption or pharmacological inhibition of ASIC1a in vHPC attenuated the extinction of conditioned fear, overexpression of the channel in this area promoted fear extinction. Channelrhodopsin-2–assisted circuit mapping revealed that fear extinction involved an ASIC1a-dependent modification of the long-range hippocampal-prefrontal correlates in a projection-specific manner. Gene expression profiling analysis and validating experiments identified several neuronal activity–regulated and memory-related genes, including Fos, Npas4, and Bdnf, as the potential mediators of ASIC1a regulation of fear extinction. Mechanistically, genetic overexpression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in vHPC or supplement of BDNF protein in mPFC both rescued the deficiency in fear extinction and the deficits on extinction-driven adaptations of hippocampal-prefrontal correlates caused by the Asic1a gene inactivation in vHPC. Together, these results establish ASIC1a as a critical constituent in fear extinction circuits and thus a promising target for managing adaptive behaviors.

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