Using QPCR to screen for the onset of morphological plasticity in the rat model of brain information storage
May 11, 2011
Department or Program
Biochemistry, Biophysics and Molecular Biology
The number of cell types involved in growth and modification of neural circuits has only recently been examined, and the functions of their interactions in neural plasticity remain to be studied. However, research suggests that the mechanisms of plasticity necessary for information storage rely on coordinated genomic and structural changes in neurons, astrocytes, and the endothelial cells of the vasculature. The quantitative PCR technique offers an analysis of the molecular regulation of cell growth that leads to morphological changes in the brain. This study examines the regulation of three genes, Egr-1, GFAP, and VEGF, that are implicated in neuronal, astrocytic, and vascular plasticity in the visual cortex and hippocampus and serve as markers for the onset of morphological plasticity. Here, the sensitivity of qPCR to detect subtle changes in gene expression is tested using benchmark gene inductions as a positive control, with immunocytochemistry serving as an internal control for induction. This study finds similar patterns of induction to the benchmarks, but levels of induction are consistently lower than expected. Specific localization of gene induction within subregions of the brain may lead to spatial dilution of gene induction, complicating the use of qPCR to assess small, localized changes in gene expression.