A mysterious protein that binds to RNA has been found to play an important role in the formation of memories in rats.
Scientists suppressed synthesis of a protein called Staufen homolog 2 in rats and found the results stunted their ability to learn – rats with lower levels of the protein had significant memory impairment compared with rats carrying normal levels.
Whenever we learn something new, the structure of our brain subtly changes to store the new information in what’s called ‘synaptic plasticity’.
“This work has enabled us, for the first time, to link a specific molecular factor – the RNA-binding protein Stau2 – with synaptic plasticity and learning,” Kiebler said.
“Overall, long-term memory continues to function, and the rats remain capable of learning how to find a food source” Kiebler said.
“LTP is regarded as a model of learning at the cellular level. However, our results indicate that it is actually the balance of LTP to LTD that is important,” Kiebler said.
The researchers noted that further investigation will be needed to determine the detailed role Stau2 plays in different phases of learning and memory, as well as the roles played by LTP and LTD, and their relationship to each other.