Learning and Memory

"Notch"ing Up Long-Term Memories

Science's STKE  17 Feb 2004:
Vol. 2004, Issue 220, pp. tw59-TW59
DOI: 10.1126/stke.2202004TW59

The membrane receptor Notch is an important regulator of development in the central nervous system. Recent evidence has also indicated that Notch may function in the adult nervous system as well. Presente et al. used a temperature-sensitive allele of Notch in Drosophila to study the role of Notch in the adult fly, which allowed Notch to complete its developmental roles at the permissive temperature, and they then studied neuronal function in adults lacking the protein. Behavioral tests of short- and long-term memory formation were conducted on wild-type and mutant flies. Short-term memory was not affected by loss of Notch, but long-term memory was affected, either because of exposure to a reproductively unresponsive female or of association of an odor with an unpleasant electrical shock. The authors discuss the intriguing implications of their findings: Long-term memory is thought to require physical remodeling of synapses, and such events might require actions of Notch that are similar to those exerted during development. Also, the presenilin gene associated with familial Alzheimer's disease encodes a protein that functions in Notch signaling. Because memory defects are prominent symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, further exploration of the mechanisms by which Notch signaling affects learning and memory could also contribute to understanding of the pathology of Alzheimer's disease.

A. Presente, R. S. Boyles, C. N. Serway, J. S. de Belle, A. J. Andres, Notch is required for long-term memory in Drosophila. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 101, 1764-1768 (2004). [Abstract] [Full Text]