Insulin-like growth factor II (IGF2) enhances memory in rodents via the mannose-6-phosphate receptor (M6PR), but the underlying mechanisms remain poorly understood. We found that human IGF2 produces an enhancement of both synaptic transmission and neurite outgrowth in the marine mollusk Aplysia californica. These findings were unexpected since Aplysia lack the mammal-specific affinity between insulin-like ligands and M6PR. Surprisingly, this effect was observed in parallel with a suppression of neuronal excitability in a well-understood circuit that supports several temporally and mechanistically distinct forms of memory in the defensive withdrawal reflex, suggesting functional coordination between excitability and memory formation. We hypothesize that these effects represent behavioral adaptations to feeding that are mediated by the endogenous Aplysia insulin-like system. Indeed, the exogenous application of a single recombinant insulin-like peptide cloned from the Aplysia CNS cDNA replicated both the enhancement of synaptic transmission, the reduction of excitability, and promoted clearance of glucose from the hemolymph, a hallmark of bona fide insulin action.
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