Differential role of mitogen-activated protein kinase in three distinct phases of memory for sensitization in Aplysia

Shiv K. Sharma, Carolyn M. Sherff, Justin Shobe, Martha W. Bagnall, Michael A. Sutton, Thomas J. Carew

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway has been implicated recently in synaptic plasticity and memory. Here we used tail shock-induced sensitization of the tail-elicited siphon withdrawal reflex in Aplysia to examine the role of MAPK in three different phases of memory. We show that a specific pattern of serotonin (5-HT) application that produces intermediate-term and long-term synaptic facilitation (ITF and LTF, respectively) of the sensory-motor (SN-MN) synapses in Aplysia leads to sustained activation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase in the ventrocaudal cluster sensory neurons (SNs), which include the tail SNs. Furthermore, repeated tail shocks that induce intermediate-term and long-term memory (ITM and LTM, respectively) for sensitization also lead to sustained MAPK activation in the SNs. Given these results, we next examined the requirement of MAPK activity in (1) SN-MN synaptic facilitation and (2) memory for sensitization in Aplysia, by inhibiting MEK, the upstream kinase that phosphorylates and activates MAPK. In cellular experiments, we show that MAPK activity is required for ITF of tail SN-tail MN synapses, and, in parallel behavioral experiments, we show that ITM requires MAPK activity for its induction but not its expression. In contrast, short-term memory for sensitization does not require MAPK activity. Finally, 5-HT-induced LTF has been shown previously to require MAPK activity. Here we show that LTM for sensitization also requires MAPK activity. These results provide evidence that MAPK plays important roles specifically in long-lasting phases of synaptic plasticity and memory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3899-3907
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 1 2003


  • ERK
  • Learning
  • MAP kinase
  • Memory
  • Sensitization
  • Synaptic facilitation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Differential role of mitogen-activated protein kinase in three distinct phases of memory for sensitization in Aplysia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this