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J Neurosci. 2008 Dec 31;28(53):14443-9. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4698-08.2008.

Spred1 is required for synaptic plasticity and hippocampus-dependent learning.

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  • 1Department of Human Genetics and Laboratory of Biological Psychology, University of Leuven, B-3000 Leuven, Belgium.


Germline mutations in SPRED1, a negative regulator of Ras, have been described in a neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1)-like syndrome (NFLS) that included learning difficulties in some affected individuals. NFLS belongs to the group of phenotypically overlapping neuro-cardio-facial-cutaneous syndromes that are all caused by germ line mutations in genes of the Ras/mitogen-activated protein kinase extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) pathway and that present with some degree of learning difficulties or mental retardation. We investigated hippocampus-dependent learning and memory as well as synaptic plasticity in Spred1(-/-) mice, an animal model of this newly discovered human syndrome. Spred1(-/-) mice show decreased learning and memory performance in the Morris water maze and visual-discrimination T-maze, but normal basic neuromotor and sensory abilities. Electrophysiological recordings on brain slices from these animals identified defects in short- and long-term synaptic hippocampal plasticity, including a disequilibrium between long-term potentiation (LTP) and long-term depression in CA1 region. Biochemical analysis, 4 h after LTP induction, demonstrated increased ERK-phosphorylation in Spred1(-/-) slices compared with those of wild-type littermates. This indicates that deficits in hippocampus-dependent learning and synaptic plasticity induced by SPRED1 deficiency are related to hyperactivation of the Ras/ERK pathway.

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