The ability of synapses to change their properties in response to environmental demands (synaptic plasticity) is essential for learning and memory. Abnormalities in synaptic plasticity are involved in Alzheimers disease and related disorders. In our continuing efforts to understand the molecular mechanisms involved in synaptic plasticity, in the contexts of aging and neurodegenerative disorders, we have made several major advances. We used Notch antisense transgenic mice that develop and reproduce normally, but exhibit reduced levels of Notch, to demonstrate a role for Notch signaling in synaptic plasticity. Mice with reduced Notch levels exhibit impaired long-term potentiation (LTP) at hippocampal CA1 synapses. A Notch ligand enhances LTP in normal mice and corrects the defect in LTP in Notch antisense transgenic mice. Levels of basal and stimulation-induced NF-kappa B activity were significantly decreased in mice with reduced Notch levels. These findings suggest an important role for Notch signaling in a form of synaptic plasticity known to be associated with learning and memory processes. We found that Notch1 and its ligand Jagged1 are present at the synapse, and that Notch signaling in neurons occurs in response to synaptic activity. In addition, neuronal Notch signaling is positively regulated by Arc/Arg3.1, an activity-induced gene required for synaptic plasticity. In Arc/Arg3.1 mutant neurons, the proteolytic activation of Notch1 is disrupted both in vivo and in vitro. Conditional deletion of Notch1 in the postnatal hippocampus disrupted both long-term potentiation (LTP) and long-term depression (LTD), and led to deficits in learning and short-term memory. Our findings show that Notch signaling is dynamically regulated in response to neuronal activity, Arc/Arg3.1 is a context-dependent Notch regulator, and Notch1 is required for the synaptic plasticity that contributes to memory formation. We discovered that several different toll-like receptors (TLRs) that were previously believed to be involved only in immune responses to infection, play important roles in synaptic plasticity and learning and memory. Adult TLR3-deficient mice exhibited enhanced hippocampus-dependent working memory in the Morris water maze, novel object recognition, and contextual fear-conditioning tasks. In contrast, TLR3-deficient mice demonstrated impaired amygdala-related behavior and anxiety in the cued fear-conditioning, open field, and elevated plus maze tasks. Further, TLR3-deficient mice exhibited increased hippocampal CA1 and dentate gyrus volumes, increased hippocampal neurogenesis, and elevated levels of the AMPA receptor subunit GluR1 in the CA1 region of the hippocampus. In addition, levels of activated forms of the kinase ERK and the transcription factor CREB were elevated in the hippocampus of TLR3-deficient mice, suggesting that constitutive TLR3 signaling negatively regulates pathways known to play important roles in hippocampal plasticity. Direct activation of TLR3 by intracerebroventricular infusion of a TLR3 ligand impaired working memory, but not reference memory. Our findings reveal previously undescribed roles for TLR3 as a suppressor of hippocampal cellular plasticity and memory retention. TLRs are therefore potential targets for the development of novel therapeutic interventions for cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease. The synaptic insertion or removal of AMPA receptors (AMPAR) plays critical roles in the regulation of synaptic activity reflected in the expression of long-term potentiation (LTP) and long-term depression (LTD). The cellular events underlying this important process in learning and memory are still being revealed. Here we describe and characterize the AAA+ ATPase Thorase, which regulates the expression of surface AMPAR. In an ATPase-dependent manner Thorase mediates the internalization of AMPAR by disassembling the AMPAR-GRIP1 complex. Following genetic deletion of Thorase, the internalization of AMPAR is substantially reduced, leading to increased amplitudes of miniature excitatory postsynaptic currents, enhancement of LTP, and elimination of LTD. These molecular events are expressed as deficits in learning and memory in Thorase null mice. Thus, we have identified a novel an AAA+ ATPase that plays a critical role in regulating the surface expression of AMPAR and thereby regulates synaptic plasticity and learning and memory. In collaboration with Will Bohr's laboratory, we found that neurons can efficiently repair oxidatively damaged DNA, and that both DNA damage and repair are enhanced by activation of excitatory glutamate receptors. However, in pathological conditions such as ischemic stroke, excessive DNA damage can trigger the death of neurons. Oxidative DNA damage is mainly repaired by base excision repair (BER), a process initiated by DNA glycosylases that recognize and remove damaged DNA bases. Endonuclease VIII-like 1 (NEIL1) is a DNA glycosylase that recognizes a broad range of oxidative lesions. Here, we show that mice lacking NEIL1 exhibit impaired memory retention in a water maze test, but no abnormalities in tests of motor performance, anxiety, or fear conditioning. NEIL1 deficiency results in increased brain damage and a defective functional outcome in a focal ischemia/reperfusion model of stroke. The incision capacity on a 5-hydroxyuracil-containing bubble substrate was lower in the ipsilateral side of ischemic brains and in the mitochondrial lysates of unstressed old NEIL1-deficient mice. These results indicate that NEIL1 plays an important role in learning and memory and in protection of neurons against ischemic injury. Ceruloplasmin (Cp) is a ferroxidase involved in iron metabolism by converting Fe(2+) to Fe(3+), and by regulating cellular iron efflux. In the ceruloplasmin knockout (CpKO) mouse, the deregulation of iron metabolism results in moderate liver and spleen hemosiderosis, but the impact of Cp deficiency on brain neurochemistry and behavior in this animal model is unknown. We found that in contrast to peripheral tissues, iron levels in the hippocampus are significantly reduced in CpKO mice. Although it does not cause any discernable deficits in motor function or learning and memory, Cp deficiency results in heightened anxiety-like behavior in the open field and elevated plus maze tests. This anxiety phenotype is associated with elevated levels of plasma corticosterone. Previous studies provided evidence that anxiety disorders and long-standing stress are associated with reductions in levels of serotonin (5HT) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the hippocampus. We found that levels of 5HT and norepinephrine (NE), and the expression of BDNF and its receptor trkB, are significantly reduced in the hippocampus of CpKO mice. Thus, Cp deficiency causes an anxiety phenotype by a mechanism that involves decreased levels of iron, 5HT, NE, and BDNF in the hippocampus.

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Petralia, Ronald S; Wang, Ya-Xian; Mattson, Mark P et al. (2016) The Diversity of Spine Synapses in Animals. Neuromolecular Med 18:497-539
Liu, Shuxi; Wang, Yue; Worley, Paul F et al. (2015) The canonical Notch pathway effector RBP-J regulates neuronal plasticity and expression of GABA transporters in hippocampal networks. Hippocampus 25:670-8
Petralia, Ronald S; Wang, Ya-Xian; Mattson, Mark P et al. (2015) Structure, Distribution, and Function of Neuronal/Synaptic Spinules and Related Invaginating Projections. Neuromolecular Med 17:211-40
Murugaiyah, Vikneswaran; Mattson, Mark P (2015) Neurohormetic phytochemicals: An evolutionary-bioenergetic perspective. Neurochem Int 89:271-80
Neufer, P Darrell; Bamman, Marcas M; Muoio, Deborah M et al. (2015) Understanding the Cellular and Molecular Mechanisms of Physical Activity-Induced Health Benefits. Cell Metab 22:4-11
Madar, Ravit; Rotter, Aviva; Waldman Ben-Asher, Hiba et al. (2015) Postnatal TLR2 activation impairs learning and memory in adulthood. Brain Behav Immun 48:301-12
Liu, Dong; Zhang, Yongqing; Gharavi, Robert et al. (2015) The mitochondrial uncoupler DNP triggers brain cell mTOR signaling network reprogramming and CREB pathway up-regulation. J Neurochem 134:677-92
Sykora, Peter; Misiak, Magdalena; Wang, Yue et al. (2015) DNA polymerase β deficiency leads to neurodegeneration and exacerbates Alzheimer disease phenotypes. Nucleic Acids Res 43:943-59
Yang, Jenq-Lin; Lin, Yu-Ting; Chuang, Pei-Chin et al. (2014) BDNF and exercise enhance neuronal DNA repair by stimulating CREB-mediated production of apurinic/apyrimidinic endonuclease 1. Neuromolecular Med 16:161-74
Mattson, Mark P (2014) Superior pattern processing is the essence of the evolved human brain. Front Neurosci 8:265

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