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Curr Biol. 2012 Apr 24;22(8):676-82. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2012.02.016. Epub 2012 Mar 1.

Protein synthesis during sleep consolidates cortical plasticity in vivo.

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  • 1Department of Neuroscience, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6074, USA.


Sleep consolidates experience-dependent brain plasticity, but the precise cellular mechanisms mediating this process are unknown [1]. De novo cortical protein synthesis is one possible mechanism. In support of this hypothesis, sleep is associated with increased brain protein synthesis [2, 3] and transcription of messenger RNAs (mRNAs) involved in protein synthesis regulation [4, 5]. Protein synthesis in turn is critical for memory consolidation and persistent forms of plasticity in vitro and in vivo [6, 7]. However, it is unknown whether cortical protein synthesis in sleep serves similar functions. We investigated the role of protein synthesis in the sleep-dependent consolidation of a classic form of cortical plasticity in vivo (ocular dominance plasticity, ODP; [8, 9]) in the cat visual cortex. We show that intracortical inhibition of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR)-dependent protein synthesis during sleep abolishes consolidation but has no effect on plasticity induced during wakefulness. Sleep also promotes phosphorylation of protein synthesis regulators (i.e., 4E-BP1 and eEF2) and the translation (but not transcription) of key plasticity related mRNAs (ARC and BDNF). These findings show that sleep promotes cortical mRNA translation. Interruption of this process has functional consequences, because it abolishes the consolidation of experience in the cortex.

Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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