Using genetically-engineered mice, the researchers found that turning off mTORC2 in the hippocampus (a crucial region required for memory formation) and surrounding areas allowed the animals to have a normal short-term memory, but prevented them from forming long-term memories. Similar to human patients with injury in the hippocampus, these mutant mice were no longer able to form new long-lasting memories.
According to Costa-Mattioli's findings, mTORC2's role is evolutionarily conserved and likely relevant to humans. Like mTORC2-deficient mice, fruit flies lacking TORC2 show defective long-term memory storage.
"Given that flies and mice last shared a common ancestor 500 million years ago, it is quite remarkable and telling that the function of mTORC2 in the regulation of memory is indeed maintained," said Dr. Gregg Roman (http://www.bchs.uh.edu/people/faculty/research-divisions/index.php?155622-961-5=gwroman), director of the Biology of Behavior Institute at the University of Houston (http://www.uh.edu), who contributed to the fly experiments.
The Holy Grail of memory neuroscience and to a certain extent, of industry efforts to produce a "smart drug," has been the identification of molecules that promote the formation of long-term memory, said Costa-Mattioli. "We therefore wondered whether by turning on mTORC2 or even actin polymerization itself, we could form long-term memories more easily," said Dr. Ping Jun Zhu, assistant professor of neuroscience at BCM, co-first author and senior scientist in Costa-Mattioli's lab.
The team has identified a small molecule (a drug) that by activating mTORC2 and consequently actin polymerization enhances not only the synaptic strength between nerve cells but also long-term memory formation. In addition,
|Contact: Glenna Picton|
Baylor College of Medicine