Fear memory-encoding thalamic input synapses to the lateral amygdala (T-LA) exhibit dynamic efficacy changes that are tightly correlated with fear memory strength. Previous studies have shown that auditory fear conditioning involves strengthening of synaptic strength, and conversely, fear extinction training leads to T-LA synaptic weakening and occlusion of long-term depression (LTD) induction. These findings suggest that the mechanisms governing LTD at T-LA synapses may determine the behavioral outcomes of extinction training. Here, we explored this hypothesis by implementing food deprivation (FD) stress in mice to determine its effects on fear extinction and LTD induction at T-LA synapses. We found that FD increased plasma acylated ghrelin levels and enhanced fear extinction and its retention. Augmentation of fear extinction by FD was blocked by pretreatment with growth hormone secretagogue receptor type-1a antagonist D-Lys3-GHRP-6, suggesting an involvement of ghrelin signaling. Confirming previous findings, two distinct forms of LTD coexist at thalamic inputs to LA pyramidal neurons that can be induced by low-frequency stimulation (LFS) or paired-pulse LFS (PP-LFS) paired with postsynaptic depolarization, respectively. Unexpectedly, we found that FD impaired the induction of PP-LFS- and group I metabotropic glutamate receptor agonist (S)-3,5-dihydroxyphenylglycine (DHPG)-induced LTD, but not LFS-induced LTD. Ghrelin mimicked the effects of FD to impair the induction of PP-LFS- and DHPG-induced LTD at T-LA synapses, which were blocked by co-application of D-Lys3-GHRP-6. The sensitivity of synaptic transmission to 1-naphthyl acetyl spermine was not altered by either FD or ghrelin treatment. These results highlight distinct features of fear extinction and LTD at T-LA synapses.
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