Memories are initially stored in a fragile form. A process known as memory consolidation converts these short-term memories into stable long-term memories. Memory consolidation requires changes in gene expression, which are regulated by molecules known as nuclear receptors.
In this issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, researchers led by Ted Abel at the University of Pennsylvania identified nuclear receptors that are important for memory formation in mice. In the hours after performing a memory-forming task, the mice had increased expression of the Nr4a nuclear receptor family. Blocking the activity of these receptors prevented long term memory formation without impacting short-term memory.
Further, increased expression of Nr4a improved the effect of a memory-enhancing class of drugs known as histone-deacetylase inhibitors. This study demonstrates that the Nr4a receptor family contributes to memory formation and may serve as a therapeutic target for improving cognition.
“NR4A nuclear receptors support memory enhancement by histone deacetylase inhibitors”
University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA