Mechanisms involved in adaptative and maladaptive changes in neural plasticity and synaptic efficacy in various brain areas are pivotal to understanding the physiology of the response to stress and the pathophysiology of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Activity-regulated cytoskeletal-associated protein (Arc) is an effector immediate early gene (IEG) which has direct effects on intracellular homeostatic functions. Increased expression of Arc has been associated with increased neuronal activity and with consolidation of long-term memory. It may thus play an important role in mediating experience-induced reorganization and/or development of synaptic connections. This study sought to characterize the pattern of expression of mRNA for the Arc gene in selected brain areas of test subjects classified according to their individual pattern of behavioral response to a stressor, correlated with circulating levels of corticosterone (as a physiological marker of stress response). The hippocampal CA1 and CA3 subregions of individuals whose behavior was minimally or partially disrupted in response to predator scent stress demonstrated significantly increased levels of mRNA for Arc, compared to unexposed controls. The group whose behavior was severely disrupted demonstrated no such upregulation. Consistent with the hypothesis that the Arc gene has a promoting effect on neuronal function and/or structural changes, the lack of Arc expression in the behaviorally and physiologically more severely affected individuals raises the possibility that Arc may be associated with resilience and/or recovery after stress exposure. © 2007 Elsevier B.V. and ECNP.
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