University of Illinois at Chicago
journal.pone.0064460.pdf (1.89 MB)

Molecular Mechanisms of Environmental Enrichment: Impairments in Akt/GSK3b, Neurotrophin-3 and CREB Signaling

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posted on 2013-11-20, 00:00 authored by Yuan-Shih Hu, Nancy Long, Gustavo Pigino, Scott T. Brady, Orly Lazarov
Experience of mice in a complex environment enhances neurogenesis and synaptic plasticity in the hippocampus of wild type and transgenic mice harboring familial Alzheimer’s disease (FAD)-linked APPswe/PS1DE9. In FAD mice, this experience also reduces levels of tau hyperphosphorylation and oligomeric b-amyloid. Although environmental enrichment has significant effects on brain plasticity and neuropathology, the molecular mechanisms underlying these effects are unknown. Here we show that environmental enrichment upregulates the Akt pathway, leading to the downregulation of glycogen synthase kinase 3b (GSK3b), in wild type but not FAD mice. Several neurotrophic signaling pathways are activated in the hippocampus of both wild type and FAD mice, including brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and nerve growth factor (NGF), and this increase is accompanied by the upregulation of the BDNF receptor, tyrosine kinase B (TrkB). Interestingly, neurotrophin-3 (NT-3) is upregulated in the brains of wild type mice but not FAD mice, while insulin growth factor-1 (IGF-1) is upregulated exclusively in the brains of FAD mice. Upregulation of neurotrophins is accompanied by the increase of NMethyl- D-aspartic acid (NMDA) receptors in the hippocampus following environmental enrichment. Most importantly, we observed a significant increase in levels of cAMP response element- binding (CREB) transcripts in the hippocampus of wild type and FAD mice following environmental enrichment. However, CREB phosphorylation, a critical step for the initiation of learning and memory-required gene transcription, takes place in the hippocampus of wild type but not of FAD mice. These results suggest that experience of wild type mice in a complex environmental upregulates critical signaling that play a major role in learning and memory in the hippocampus. However, in FAD mice, some of these pathways are impaired and cannot be rescued by environmental enrichment.


Funding was provided by NIA AG033570 (, NIA 1 RC1 AG036208-01 (, New Investigator Research Grant, The Alzheimer’s Association (, and the Alzheimer’s Research Fund, The IDPH (


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© 2013 Hu et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. © 2013 by Public Library of Science, PLoS ONE


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