Hippocampal neurons fire spikes when an animal is at a particular location or performs certain behaviors in a particular place, providing a cellular basis for hippocampal involvement in spatial learning and memory. In a natural environment, spatial memory is often associated with potentially dangerous sensory experiences such as noxious or painful stimuli. The central sites for such pain-associated memory or plasticity have not been identified. Here we present evidence that excitatory glutamatergic synapses within the CA1 region of the hippocampus may play a role in storing pain-related information. Peripheral noxious stimulation induced excitatory postsynaptic potentials (EPSPs) in CA1 pyramidal cells in anesthetized animals. Tissue/nerve injury caused a rapid increase in the level of the immediate- early gene product Egr1 (also called NGFI-A, Krox24, or zif/268) in hippocampal CA1 neurons. In parallel, synaptic potentiation induced by a single tetanic stimulation (100 Hz for 1 s) was enhanced after the injury. This enhancement of synaptic potentiation was absent in mice lacking Egr1. Our data suggest that Egr1 may act as an important regulator of pain-related synaptic plasticity within the hippocampus.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1325-1333
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Cell Biology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jun 26 2000


  • Egr1
  • Hippocampus
  • LTP
  • NMDA
  • Pain


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