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Front Behav Neurosci. 2011 Nov 9;5:68. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2011.00068. eCollection 2011.

Modulation of neuronal signal transduction and memory formation by synaptic zinc.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology, University of Washington Seattle, WA, USA.


The physiological role of synaptic zinc has remained largely enigmatic since its initial detection in hippocampal mossy fibers over 50 years ago. The past few years have witnessed a number of studies highlighting the ability of zinc ions to regulate ion channels and intracellular signaling pathways implicated in neuroplasticity, and others that shed some light on the elusive role of synaptic zinc in learning and memory. Recent behavioral studies using knock-out mice for the synapse-specific zinc transporter ZnT-3 indicate that vesicular zinc is required for the formation of memories dependent on the hippocampus and the amygdala, two brain centers that are prominently innervated by zinc-rich fibers. A common theme emerging from this research is the activity-dependent regulation of the Erk1/2 mitogen-activated-protein kinase pathway by synaptic zinc through diverse mechanisms in neurons. Here we discuss current knowledge on how synaptic zinc may play a role in cognition through its impact on neuronal signaling.


memory; neuronal plasticity; signal transduction; synaptic zinc

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