Enhanced learning after genetic
overexpression of a brain growth protein

Routtenberg A, Cantallops I, Zaffuto S, Serrano P, Namgung U.
Cresap Neuroscience Laboratory,
Departments of Psychology and Neurobiology,
Institute for Neuroscience,
Northwestern University, 2029 Sheridan Road,
Evanston, IL 60208, USA.
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2000 Jun 20; 97(13):7657-62


Ramon y Cajal proposed 100 years ago that memory formation requires the growth of nerve cell processes. One-half century later, Hebb suggested that growth of presynaptic axons and postsynaptic dendrites consequent to coactivity in these synaptic elements was essential for such information storage. In the past 25 years, candidate growth genes have been implicated in learning processes, but it has not been demonstrated that they in fact enhance them. Here, we show that genetic overexpression of the growth-associated protein GAP-43, the axonal protein kinase C substrate, dramatically enhanced learning and long-term potentiation in transgenic mice. If the overexpressed GAP-43 was mutated by a Ser --> Ala substitution to preclude its phosphorylation by protein kinase C, then no learning enhancement was found. These findings provide evidence that a growth-related gene regulates learning and memory and suggest an unheralded target, the GAP-43 phosphorylation site, for enhancing cognitive ability.

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