In vivo and in vitro analyses of amygdalar function reveal a role for copper

E. D. Gaier, R. M. Rodriguiz, J. Zhou, M. Ralle, W. C. Wetsel, B. A. Eipper, R. E. Mains

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Mice with a single copy of the peptide amidating monooxygenase (Pam) gene (PAM+/-) are impaired in contextual and cued fear conditioning. These abnormalities coincide with deficient long-term potentiation (LTP) at excitatory thalamic afferent synapses onto pyramidal neurons in the lateral amygdala. Slice recordings from PAM+/- mice identified an increase in GABAergic tone (Gaier ED, Rodriguiz RM, Ma XM, Sivaramakrishnan S, Bousquet-Moore D, Wetsel WC, Eipper BA, Mains RE. J Neurosci 30: 13656-13669, 2010). Biochemical data indicate a tissue-specific deficit in Cu content in the amygdala; amygdalar expression of Atox-1 and Atp7a, essential for transport of Cu into the secretory pathway, is reduced in PAM+/- mice. When PAM+/- mice were fed a diet supplemented with Cu, the impairments in fear conditioning were reversed, and LTP was normalized in amygdala slice recordings. A role for endogenous Cu in amygdalar LTP was established by the inhibitory effect of a brief incubation of wild-type slices with bathocuproine disulfonate, a highly selective, cell-impermeant Cu chelator. Interestingly, bathapplied CuSO4 had no effect on excitatory currents but reversibly potentiated the disynaptic inhibitory current. Bath-applied CuSO4 was sufficient to potentiate wild-type amygdala afferent synapses. The ability of dietary Cu to affect signaling in pathways that govern fear-based behaviors supports an essential physiological role for Cu in amygdalar function at both the synaptic and behavioral levels. This work is relevant to neurological and psychiatric disorders in which disturbed Cu homeostasis could contribute to altered synaptic transmission, including Wilson's, Menkes, Alzheimer's, and prion-related diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1927-1939
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2014


  • Fear
  • GABA
  • Learning and memory
  • Peptidylglycine alpha-amidating monooxygenase
  • Synaptic plasticity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Physiology


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