Voltage-gated potassium channels (Kv) are critically involved in learning and memory processes. It is not known, however, whether the expression of the Kv1.1 subunit, constituting Kv1 channels, can be specifically regulated in brain areas important for learning and memory processing. Radioactive in situ hybridization was used to evaluate the content of Kv1.1 α-subunit mRNA in the olfactory bulb, ventral, and dorsal hippocampus at different stages of an odor-discrimination associative task in rats. Naive, conditioned, and pseudoconditioned animals were sacrificed at different times either prior to a two-odor significance learning or after odor discrimination was established. Important decreases of Kv1.1 mRNA levels were transiently observed in the ventral hippocampus before successful learning when compared with the pseudoconditioned group. Moreover, temporal group analysis showed significant labeling alterations in the hippocampus of conditioned and pseudoconditioned groups throughout the training. Finally, Kv1.1 mRNA levels in the hippocampus were positively correlated with odor-reward association learning in rats that were beginning to discriminate between odors. These findings indicate that the Kv1.1 subunit is transiently down-regulated in the early stages of learning and suggest that Kv1 channel expression regulation is critical for the modification of neuronal substrates underlying new information acquisition.
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