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J Neurocytol. 2001 Dec;30(12):993-1008.

Pavlovian conditioning-specific increases of the Ca2+- and GTP-binding protein, calexcitin in identified Hermissenda visual cells.

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Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, MA 02540, USA.


Hermissenda CNS, immunolabeled for the memory protein calexcitin showed significant immunostaining over background in the B-photoreceptor cells of the eye. The degree of staining correlated positively with the number of Pavlovian training events experienced by the animals and the degree of Pavlovian conditioning induced. The training regime consisted of exposing animals to light (conditioned stimulus, CS) paired with orbital rotation (unconditioned stimulus, US). In animals that exhibited the conditioned response, calexcitin immunolabeling was more intense than was found for naive (unconditioned) animals or animals given the CS and US in random sequence. Animals exposed to lead (maintained in 1.2 ppm lead acetate) at a dosage known to impair learning in children, showed reduced learning and less intense calexcitin staining whether the CS and US were paired or given randomly. However, the levels were still higher than that of naive animals. Immuno-electron microscopy indicated that the labeling was predominantly within calcium sequestering organelles such as the endoplasmic reticulum, and to lesser extent within mitochondria, and photopigments. The calexcitin density after a short-term memory (STM) regime was the same whether measured 5 minutes after conditioning (when STM was evidenced by foot contraction) or 90 minutes later when no recall was detected. The staining density was also similar to the levels found 5 minutes after long-term memory (LTM) conditioning. However, the LTM regime produced a greater calexcitin intensity at 90 minutes when the memory had been consolidated. This learning-specific increase in calexcitin is consistent with the previously implicated sequence of molecular events that are associated with progressively longer time domains of memory storage.

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