Long-term memory (LTM) formation is a critical survival process by which an animal retains information about prior experiences to guide future behavior. In the experimentally advantageous marine mollusk Aplysia, LTM for sensitization can be induced by the presentation of two aversive shocks to the animal's tail. Each of these training trials recruits distinct growth factor signaling systems that promote LTM formation. Specifically, whereas intact TrkB signaling during Trial 1 promotes an initial and transient increase of the immediate early gene apc/ebp mRNA, a prolonged increase in apc/ebp gene expression required for LTM formation requires the addition of TGFb signaling during Trial 2. Here we explored the molecular mechanisms by which Trial 2 achieves the essential prolonged gene expression of apc/ebp. We find that this prolonged gene expression is not dependent on de novo transcription, but that apc/ebp mRNA synthesized by Trial 1 is post-transcriptionally stabilized by interacting with the RNA-binding protein ApELAV. This interaction is promoted by p38 MAPK activation initiated by TGFb. We further demonstrate that blocking the interaction of ApELAV with its target mRNA during Trial 2 blocks both the prolonged increase in apc/ebp gene expression and the behavioral induction of LTM. Collectively, our findings elucidate both when and how ELAV proteins are recruited for the stabilization of mRNA in LTM formation. Stabilization of a transiently expressed immediate early gene mRNA by a repeated training trial may therefore serve as a "filter"for learning, permitting only specific events to cause lasting transcriptional changes and behavioral LTM.
- Long-term memory
- Post-transcriptional regulation
ASJC Scopus subject areas