Enzyme key to learning in fruit flies

February 07, 2017

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (http://www.ucr.edu) -- An animal's reaction to an odor or food or other stimuli depends largely on past experiences and how they have been entered into memory.

While it is known that the connections between neurons in the brain, called synapses, are altered during learning many mysteries remain about how memories are formed. It is particularly important to study how individual proteins and genes act on this process because loss of learning and memory due to aging or diseases can reduce our well-being.

In a just-published paper in the journal Cell Reports, a team of scientists, led by Anandasankar Ray, an associate professor at the University of California, Riverside, have begun to unravel some of these mysteries.

They showed that a specific enzyme called Histone Deacetylase Inhibitor 6 (HDAC6) plays an important role in learning in fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster), a common model organism. More detailed analysis showed that the enzyme is likely to act like a "dimmer switch," or regulator, that can increase or decrease the signal across synapses (neuronal connections) as an animal learns something new.

Histone deacetylases (HDACs) have been extensively studied as drug targets in neurodegenerative diseases, such as Lou Gehrig's (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and Huntington's, but less is known about their role in healthy neurons. Research by others has shown that HDAC6 could have diverse roles depending on the neurodegenerative diseases.

But, knowing that the HDAC6 enzyme has a role in learning in the fruit fly model may help in the future if it works the same way in humans, Ray said. He said small molecule drugs that are already known to block the activity of the enzyme could potentially be used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. Or drugs that enhance activity of the enzyme could be used to improve memory as a person ages or is inflicted with a disease that causes memory loss.

The Cell Reports paper is called, "The Role of Histone Deacetylase 6 in Synaptic Plasticity and Memory." In addition to Ray, who is also director of the Center for Disease Vector Research at UC Riverside, the authors are: Sarah Perry, (an ex-graduate student of the UC Riverside Genetics, Genomics & Bioinformatics program UCR in the Ray lab), and Beril Kiragasi and Dion Dickman, both of the University of Southern California.

The study will be featured on cover of the Feb. 7, 2017 issue of Cell Reports with a drawing from the first author Sarah Perry.
-end-


University of California - Riverside

Related Memory Articles from Brightsurf:

Memory of the Venus flytrap
In a study to be published in Nature Plants, a graduate student Mr.

Memory protein
When UC Santa Barbara materials scientist Omar Saleh and graduate student Ian Morgan sought to understand the mechanical behaviors of disordered proteins in the lab, they expected that after being stretched, one particular model protein would snap back instantaneously, like a rubber band.

Previously claimed memory boosting font 'Sans Forgetica' does not actually boost memory
It was previously claimed that the font Sans Forgetica could enhance people's memory for information, however researchers from the University of Warwick and the University of Waikato, New Zealand, have found after carrying out numerous experiments that the font does not enhance memory.

Memory boost with just one look
HRL Laboratories, LLC, researchers have published results showing that targeted transcranial electrical stimulation during slow-wave sleep can improve metamemories of specific episodes by 20% after only one viewing of the episode, compared to controls.

VR is not suited to visual memory?!
Toyohashi university of technology researcher and a research team at Tokyo Denki University have found that virtual reality (VR) may interfere with visual memory.

The genetic signature of memory
Despite their importance in memory, the human cortex and subcortex display a distinct collection of 'gene signatures.' The work recently published in eNeuro increases our understanding of how the brain creates memories and identifies potential genes for further investigation.

How long does memory last? For shape memory alloys, the longer the better
Scientists captured live action details of the phase transitions of shape memory alloys, giving them a better idea how to improve their properties for applications.

A NEAT discovery about memory
UAB researchers say over expression of NEAT1, an noncoding RNA, appears to diminish the ability of older brains to form memories.

Molecular memory can be used to increase the memory capacity of hard disks
Researchers at the University of Jyväskylä have taken part in an international British-Finnish-Chinese collaboration where the first molecule capable of remembering the direction of a magnetic above liquid nitrogen temperatures has been prepared and characterized.

Memory transferred between snails
Memories can be transferred between organisms by extracting ribonucleic acid (RNA) from a trained animal and injecting it into an untrained animal, as demonstrated in a study of sea snails published in eNeuro.

Read More: Memory News and Memory Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.