December 19, 2017

Forming memories through CaMKII

Vanderbilt researchers have identified an interaction between two proteins that play a role in learning and memory.

by Sanjay Mishra

Long-term memories are formed by specific patterns of neuronal excitation, and requires increased expression of certain genes via a process called E-T (excitation-transcription) coupling.

E-T coupling can be initiated by the influx of calcium ions into neurons following the opening of specific calcium channels (LTCCs). This calcium influx triggers a complex pathway leading to activation of the CREB transcription factor and increased gene expression.

The laboratory of Roger Colbran, PhD, has long studied a key calcium ion sensor, called calmodulin, and its target protein CaMKII in learning and memory.

Now, in work recently published in The Journal of Biological Chemistry, graduate student Xiaohan Wang identified a novel direct interaction between activated CaMKII and an intracellular domain of the neuronal LTCC. Mutations in the LTCC or in CaMKII that specifically block this interaction also disrupt LTCC-mediated regulation of CREB.

These findings provide new insights into the molecular basis of learning and memory.

Funding for the study was provided by the National Institutes of Health (MH063232, NS078291, DK097392 DC009433, NS084190, HD061543, MH109196) and the American Heart Association.

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