Activation of phenotypically-distinct neuronal subpopulations of the rat amygdala following exposure to predator odor

R. K. Butler, A. C. Sharko, E. M. Oliver, P. Brito-Vargas, K. F. Kaigler, J. R. Fadel, M. A. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

27 Scopus citations


Exposure of rats to an odor of a predator can elicit an innate fear response. In addition, such exposure has been shown to activate limbic brain regions such as the amygdala. However, there is a paucity of data on the phenotypic characteristics of the activated amygdalar neurons following predator odor exposure. In the current experiments, rats were exposed to cloth which contained either ferret odor, butyric acid, or no odor for 30 min. Ferret odor-exposed rats displayed an increase in defensive burying versus control rats. Sections of the brains were prepared for dual-labeled immunohistochemistry and counts of c-Fos co-localized with Ca 2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII), parvalbumin, or calbindin were made in the basolateral (BLA), central (CEA), and medial (MEA) nucleus of the amygdala. Dual-labeled immunohistochemistry showed a significant increase in the percentage of CaMKII-positive neurons also immunoreactive for c-Fos in the BLA, CEA and MEA of ferret odor-exposed rats compared to control and butyric acid-exposed groups. Further results showed a significant decrease in calbindin-immunoreactive neurons that were also c-Fos-positive in the anterior portion of the BLA of ferret odor-exposed rats compared to control and butyric acid-exposed rats, whereas the MEA expressed a significant decrease in calbindin/c-Fos dual-labeled neurons in butyric acid-exposed rats compared to controls and ferret odor-exposed groups. These results enhance our understanding of the functioning of the amygdala following exposure to predator threats by showing phenotypic characteristics of activated amygdalar neurons. With this knowledge, specific neuronal populations could be targeted to further elucidate the fundamental underpinnings of anxiety and could possibly indicate new targets for the therapeutic treatment of anxiety.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)133-144
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - Feb 17 2011
Externally publishedYes



  • Amygdala
  • Anxiety
  • C-Fos
  • Calbindin
  • CaMKII
  • Ferret

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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