D-cycloserine (DCS) is currently under clinical trials for a number of neuropsychiatric conditions and has been found to augment fear extinction in rodents and exposure therapy in humans. However, the molecular mechanism of DCS action in these multiple modalities remains unclear. Here, we describe the effect of DCS administration, alone or in conjunction with extinction training, on neuronal activity (c-fos) and neuronal plasticity [phospho-extracellular signal-regulated kinase (pERK)] markers using immunohistochemistry. We found that intraperitoneal administration of DCS in untrained young rats (24-28 days old) increased c-fos- and pERK-stained neurons in both the prelimbic and infralimbic division of the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and reduced pERK levels in the lateral nucleus of the central amygdala. Moreover, DCS administration significantly increased GluA1, GluN1, GluN2A, and GluN2B expression in the mPFC. In a separate set of animals, we found that DCS facilitated fear extinction and increased pERK levels in the infralimbic prefrontal cortex, prelimbic prefrontal cortex intercalated cells and lateral nucleus of the central amygdala, compared with saline control. In the synaptoneurosomal preparation, we found that extinction training increased iGluR protein expression in the mPFC, compared with context animals. No significant difference in protein expression was observed between extinction-saline and extinction-DCS groups in the mPFC. In contrast, in the amygdala DCS, the conjunction with extinction training led to an increase in iGluR subunit expression, compared with the extinction-saline group. Our data suggest that the efficacy of DCS in neuropsychiatric disorders may be partly due to its ability to affect neuronal activity and signaling in the mPFC and amygdala subnuclei.
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