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Cyclic AMP (cAMP) is a second messenger involved in many processes including mnemonic processing and anxiety. Memory deficits and anxiety are noted in the phenotype of fragile X (FX), the most common heritable cause of mental retardation and autism. Here we review reported observations of altered cAMP cascade function in FX and autism. Cyclic AMP is a potentially useful biochemical marker to distinguish autism comorbid with FX from autism per se and the cAMP cascade may be a viable therapeutic target for both FX and autism.
Rats were implanted bilaterally with cannulae into the dorsal hippocampus and trained in a Pavlovian fear-conditioning paradigm. Four groups of rats were infused intra-cranially with 1-(5'-isoquinolinesulfonyl)-2-methylpiperazine (H7-dihydrochloride), a potent inhibitor of both protein kinase C (PKC) and cAMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA), at different time intervals in order to examine their involvement in the acquisition and consolidation of contextual fear memory. We demonstrate a significant consolidation deficit of long-term contextual fear-conditioning memory that is maximal when PKA and PKC are inhibited at 90 min post-training. These results suggest the existence of a critical time window, during which these enzymes must be activated for the consolidation of long-term memories.