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J Neurosci. 2014 Oct 29;34(44):14624-32. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2117-14.2014.

Genetic or pharmacological reduction of PERK enhances cortical-dependent taste learning.

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Sagol Department of Neurobiology.
Center for Gene Manipulation in the Brain, University of Haifa, Haifa 3498838, Israel.
Sagol Department of Neurobiology, Center for Gene Manipulation in the Brain, University of Haifa, Haifa 3498838, Israel


Protein translation initiation is controlled by levels of eIF2α phosphorylation (p-eIF2α) on Ser51. In addition, increased p-eIF2α levels impair long-term synaptic plasticity and memory consolidation, whereas decreased levels enhance them. Levels of p-eIF2α are determined by four kinases, of which protein kinase RNA-activated (PKR), PKR-like endoplastic reticulum kinase (PERK), and general control nonderepressible 2 are extensively expressed in the mammalian mature brain. Following identification of PERK as the major kinase to determine basal levels of p-eIF2α in primary neuronal cultures, we tested its function as a physiological constraint of memory consolidation in the cortex, the brain structure suggested to store, at least in part, long-term memories in the mammalian brain. To that aim, insular cortex (IC)-dependent positive and negative forms of taste learning were used. Genetic reduction of PERK expression was accomplished by local microinfusion of a lentivirus harboring PERK Short hairpin RNA, and pharmacological inhibition was achieved by local microinfusion of a PERK-specific inhibitor (GSK2606414) to the rat IC. Both genetic reduction of PERK expression and pharmacological inhibition of its activity reduced p-eIF2α levels and enhanced novel taste learning and conditioned taste aversion, but not memory retrieval. Moreover, enhanced extinction was observed together with enhanced associative memory, suggesting increased cortical-dependent behavioral plasticity. The results suggest that, by phosphorylating eIF2α, PERK functions in the cortex as a physiological constraint of memory consolidation, and its downregulation serves as cognitive enhancement.


consolidation; eIF2α; gustatory cortex; protein synthesis; taste

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