Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Nerve protein linked to learning and memory

Date:
November 1, 2011
Source:
University of Illinois at Chicago
Summary:
Biology professors have found the protein tomosyn plays an important role in regulating neurotransmitter between synapses, and consequently plays a role in longer-term memory and learning. The results may prove helpful in developing new drugs to treat human memory loss.

Can the nerve signaling inhibitor tomosyn help retain long-term memory? A new study by two University of Illinois at Chicago biologists points to the link.

Findings by Janet Richmond and David Featherstone, both professors of biological sciences at UIC, are reported in the Oct. 31 online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"This is the first really comprehensive effort to look at the role of tomosyn in fly learning," said Richmond, who until now studied the protein in an even simpler organism, the lowly nematode, or roundworm.

Several studies have shown that learning behavior in fruit flies requires many of the same proteins used in higher animals, including mammals.

The UIC biologists found that tomosyn plays an important role in regulating the amount of neurotransmitter in the synapse, the junction where messages are relayed between nerve cells. Tomosyn can limit this signaling; eliminating tomosyn strengthens the signaling.

"When synapses get stronger, we learn. When they get weaker, we forget," said Featherstone. "We discovered that tomosyn is a mechanism that can control whether synapses get stronger or weaker, and this seems to be important for memory formation."

Tomosyn interacts with a group of proteins known by the acronym SNARE, and that interaction is in turn regulated by an enzyme called PKA, which has been shown to be important for learning.

Knowing this, Richmond and Featherstone ran experiments on fruit flies to see whether tomosyn might play a role in learning and memory.

Their experiments involved the fly's ability to learn to associate a particular odor with an electrical shock. Flies remember the association and will avoid the odor for hours afterwards. But by knocking out tomosyn, "the flies were unable to retain that memory," said Richmond.

The UIC biologists demonstrated how tomosyn can affect both synaptic signaling and learning and memory.

Richmond and Featherstone hope their findings will provide valuable clues that pharmacologists might use in creating new drug therapies for various forms of human memory loss. Richmond said tomosyn is a good protein to experiment with.

"Tomosyn regulates the way synapses work, but it's not essential for life," she said. "We hope that by understanding how it functions in memory formation, our research will provide useful insights that may help us better address the issue of severe memory loss."

Other co-authors include Martin Schwδrzel and Antje Richlitzki, researchers specializing in fly learning behavior at the Free University of Berlin's Institute for Biology/Genetics. Richmond and Featherstone established a collaboration with the Berlin researchers while in Germany on Humboldt Research Awards. Kaiyun Chen, a former UIC research assistant professor in the Featherstone laboratory, served as the electro-physiologist for the study.

The work was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Illinois at Chicago. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Kaiyun Chen, Antje Richlitzki, David E. Featherstone, Martin Schwδrzel, and Janet E. Richmond. Tomosyn-dependent regulation of synaptic transmission is required for a late phase of associative odor memory. PNAS, 2011 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1110184108

Cite This Page:

University of Illinois at Chicago. "Nerve protein linked to learning and memory." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 November 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111031154117.htm>.
University of Illinois at Chicago. (2011, November 1). Nerve protein linked to learning and memory. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111031154117.htm
University of Illinois at Chicago. "Nerve protein linked to learning and memory." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111031154117.htm (accessed July 24, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Idaho Boy Helps Brother With Disabilities Complete Triathlon

Idaho Boy Helps Brother With Disabilities Complete Triathlon

Newsy (July 23, 2014) — An 8-year-old boy helped his younger brother, who has a rare genetic condition that's confined him to a wheelchair, finish a triathlon. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Huge Schizophrenia Study Finds Dozens Of New Genetic Causes

Huge Schizophrenia Study Finds Dozens Of New Genetic Causes

Newsy (July 22, 2014) — The 83 new genetic markers could open dozens of new avenues for schizophrenia treatment research. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Why Do People Believe We Only Use 10 Percent Of Our Brains?

Why Do People Believe We Only Use 10 Percent Of Our Brains?

Newsy (July 22, 2014) — The new sci-fi thriller "Lucy" is making people question whether we really use all our brainpower. But, as scientists have insisted for years, we do. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Do Obese Women Have 'Food Learning Impairment'?

Do Obese Women Have 'Food Learning Impairment'?

Newsy (July 18, 2014) — Yale researchers tested 135 men and women, and it was only obese women who were deemed to have "impaired associative learning." Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins