Neuronal PAS domain protein 2 (NPAS2) is a basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) PAS domain transcription factor expressed in multiple regions of the vertebrate brain. Targeted insertion of a beta-galactosidase reporter gene (lacZ) resulted in the production of an NPAS2-lacZ fusion protein and an altered form of NPAS2 lacking the bHLH domain. The neuroanatomical expression pattern of NPAS2-lacZ was temporally and spatially coincident with formation of the mature frontal association/limbic forebrain pathway. NPAS2-deficient mice were subjected to a series of behavioral tests and were found to exhibit deficits in the long-term memory arm of the cued and contextual fear task. Thus, NPAS2 may serve a dedicated regulatory role in the acquisition of specific types of memory.
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