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 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. Despite considerable evidence that RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) regulate mRNA transport and local translation in dendrites, roles for axonal RBPs are poorly understood. Here we demonstrate that a non-telomeric isoform of telomere repeat-binding factor 2 (TRF2-S) is a novel RBP that regulates axonal plasticity. TRF2-S interacts directly with target mRNAs to facilitate their axonal delivery. The process is antagonized by fragile X mental retardation protein (FMRP). Distinct from the current RNA-binding model of FMRP, we show that FMRP occupies the GAR domain of TRF2-S protein to block the assembly of TRF2-S-mRNA complexes. Overexpressing TRF2-S and silencing FMRP promotes mRNA entry to axons and enhances axonal outgrowth and neurotransmitter release from presynaptic terminals. Our findings suggest a pivotal role for TRF2-S in an axonal mRNA localization pathway that enhances axon outgrowth and neurotransmitter release. Neuroinflammation in the central nervous system is detrimental for learning and memory, as evident form epidemiological studies linking developmental defects and maternal exposure to harmful pathogens. Postnatal infections can also induce neuroinflammatory responses with long-term consequences. These inflammatory responses can lead to motor deficits and/or behavioral disabilities. Toll like receptors (TLRs) are a family of innate immune receptors best known as sensors of microbial-associated molecular patterns, and are the first responders to infection. TLR2 forms heterodimers with either TLR1 or TLR6, is activated in response to gram-positive bacterial infections, and is expressed in the brain during embryonic development. We hypothesized that early postnatal TLR2-mediated neuroinflammation would adversely affect cognitive behavior in the adult. Our data indicate that postnatal TLR2 activation affects learning and memory in adult mice in a heterodimer-dependent manner. TLR2/6 activation improved motor function and fear learning, while TLR2/1 activation impaired spatial learning and enhanced fear learning. Moreover, developmental TLR2 deficiency significantly impairs spatial learning and enhances fear learning, stressing the involvement of the TLR2 pathway in learning and memory. Analysis of the transcriptional effects of TLR2 activation reveals both common and unique transcriptional programs following heterodimer-specific TLR2 activation. These results imply that adult cognitive behavior could be influenced in part, by activation or alterations in the TLR2 pathway at birth.

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National Institute on Aging (NIA)
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