Impairment of the context preexposure facilitation effect in juvenile rats by neonatal alcohol exposure is associated with decreased Egr-1 mRNA expression in the prefrontal cortex.

The context preexposure facilitation effect (CPFE) is a variant of contextual fear conditioning in which learning about the context (preexposure) and associating the context with a shock (training) occur on separate occasions. The CPFE is sensitive to a range of neonatal alcohol doses (Murawski & Stanton, 2011). The current study examined the impact of neonatal alcohol on Egr-1 mRNA expression in the infralimbic (IL) and prelimbic (PL) subregions of the mPFC, the CA1 of dorsal hippocampus (dHPC), and the lateral nucleus of the amygdala (LA), following the preexposure and training phases of the CPFE. Rat pups were exposed to a 5.25 g/kg/day single binge-like dose of alcohol (Group EtOH) or were sham intubated (SI; Group SI) over postnatal days (PD) 7–9. In behaviorally tested rats, alcohol administration disrupted freezing. Following context preexposure, Egr-1 mRNA was elevated in both EtOH and SI groups compared with baseline control animals in all regions analyzed. Following both preexposure and training, Group EtOH displayed a significant decrease in mPFC Egr-1 mRNA expression compared with Group SI. However, this decrease was greatest after training. Training day decreases in Egr-1 expression were not found in LA or CA1 in Group EtOH compared with Group SI. A second experiment confirmed that the EtOH-induced training-day deficits in mPFC Egr-1 mRNA expression were specific to groups which learned contextual fear (vs. nonassociative controls). Thus, memory processes that engage the mPFC during the context-shock association may be most susceptible to the teratogenic effects of neonatal alcohol. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)