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. 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. The formation, maintenance and reorganization of synapses are critical for brain development and the responses of neuronal circuits to environmental challenges. Here we describe a novel role for peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor alpha; co-activator gamma (PGC-1alpha) ;, a master regulator of mitochondrial biogenesis, in the formation and maintenance of dendritic spines in hippocampal neurons. In cultured hippocampal neurons, PGC-1alpha overexpression increases dendritic spines and enhances the molecular differentiation of synapses, whereas knockdown of PGC-1alpha inhibits spinogenesis and synaptogenesis. PGC-1alpha; knockdown also reduces the density of dendritic spines in hippocampal dentate granule neurons in vivo. We further show that brain-derived neurotrophic factor stimulates PGC-1alpha-dependent mitochondrial biogenesis by activating extracellular signal-regulated kinases and cyclic AMP response element-binding protein. PGC-1alpha knockdown inhibits brain-derived neurotrophic factor-induced dendritic spine formation without affecting expression and activation of the brain-derived neurotrophic factor receptor tyrosine receptor kinase B. Our findings suggest that PGC-1alpha and mitochondrial biogenesis have important roles in the formation and maintenance of hippocampal dendritic spines and synapses. Toll-like receptors (TLRs) play essential roles in innate immunity and increasing evidence indicates that these receptors are expressed in neurons, astrocytes and microglia in the brain where they mediate responses to infection, stress and injury. Very little is known about the roles of TLRs in cognition. We found that developmental TLR4 deficiency enhances spatial reference memory acquisition and memory retention, impairs contextual fear-learning and enhances motor functions, traits that were correlated with CREB up-regulation in the hippocampus. TLR4 antagonist infusion into the cerebral ventricles of adult mice did not affect cognitive behavior, but instead affected anxiety responses. Our findings indicate a developmental role for TLR4 in shaping spatial reference memory, and fear learning and memory. Moreover, we show that central TLR4 inhibition using a TLR4 antagonist has no discernible physiological role in regulating spatial and contextual hippocampus-dependent cognitive behavior. We found that conditional disruption of RBP-J in the postnatal hippocampus leads to defects in long-term potentiation, long-term depression, and in learning and memory. Using gene expression profiling and chromatin immunoprecipitation, we identified two GABA transporters, GAT2 and BGT1, as putative Notch/RBP-J pathway targets, which may function downstream of RBP-J to limit the accumulation of GABA in the Schaffer collateral pathway. Our results reveal an essential role for canonical Notch/RBP-J signaling in hippocampal synaptic plasticity and suggest that role, at least in part, is mediated by the regulation of GABAergic signaling. Humans have long pondered the nature of their mind/brain and, particularly why its capacities for reasoning, communication and abstract thought are far superior to other species, including closely related anthropoids. We have developed an hypothesis, based on evolutionary considerations and recent advances in neuroscience and brain imaging, which posits that superior pattern processing (SPP) is the fundamental basis of most, if not all, unique features of the human brain including intelligence, language, imagination, invention, and the belief in imaginary entities such as ghosts and gods. SPP involves the electrochemical, neuronal network-based, encoding, integration, and transfer to other individuals of perceived or mentally-fabricated patterns. During human evolution, pattern processing capabilities became increasingly sophisticated as the result of expansion of the cerebral cortex, particularly the prefrontal cortex and regions involved in processing of images. Specific patterns, real or imagined, are reinforced by emotional experiences, indoctrination and even psychedelic drugs. Impaired or dysregulated SPP is fundamental to cognitive and psychiatric disorders. A broader understanding of SPP mechanisms, and their roles in normal and abnormal function of the human brain, may enable the development of interventions that reduce irrational decisions and destructive behaviors.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Aging (NIA)
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Zhang, Shi; Eitan, Erez; Wu, Tsung-Yu et al. (2018) Intercellular transfer of pathogenic ?-synuclein by extracellular vesicles is induced by the lipid peroxidation product 4-hydroxynonenal. Neurobiol Aging 61:52-65
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