Role of a transcription factor
(CREB) in memory processes

De Luca A, Giuditta A.
Department of General and
Environmental Physiology,
Naples, Italy
Riv Biol 1997;90(3):371-84


Memory storage includes a short-term phase (STM) which requires the phosphorylation of pre-existing proteins, and a long-term phase (LTM) which needs the novel synthesis of RNA and proteins. Cyclic AMP and a specific transcription factor (cAMP response element binding protein or CREB) play a central role in the formation of LTM in aplysia, drosophila and mice. Following its phosphorylation by protein kinase A, CREB binds to the enhancer element CRE which is located in the upstream region of cAMP-responsive genes, thus triggering transcription. Some of the newly-synthesized proteins are additional transcription factors that ultimately give rise to the activation of late response genes, whose products are responsible for the modification of synaptic efficacy leading to LTM. In aplysia, CREB activation has been interfered with by microinjection of CRE containing oligonucleotides into cultured neurons. Under these conditions LTM is blocked while STM remains unchanged. In drosophila, CREB function has been disrupted using a reverse genetic approach. Thus, LTM has been specifically blocked by the induced expression of a CREB repressor isoform, and enhanced by the induced expression of an activator isoform. In mouse, the role of CREB has been confirmed by behavioural analyses of a knock-out line with a targeted mutation in the CREB gene. In these mutants, learning and STM are normal, whereas LTM is disrupted. On the whole, the data suggest that encoding of long term memories involve highly conserved molecular mechanisms.

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