Molecular Mechanisms of Environmental Enrichment: Impairments in Akt/GSK3β, Neurotrophin-3 and CREB Signaling

Yuan Shih Hu, Nancy Long, Gustavo Pigino, Scott T. Brady, Orly Lazarov*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

116 Scopus citations


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/PS1ΔE9. In FAD mice, this experience also reduces levels of tau hyperphosphorylation and oligomeric β-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 3β (GSK3β), 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 N-Methyl-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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere64460
JournalPloS one
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 21 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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