Researchers at Stowers Institute of Medical Research conducted a detailed analysis of the Orb2 protein. They have found that Orb2 potentially acts as a physical substrate to strengthen and retain memory. Previous studies also reveal that Orb2 contributes to the formation of long-term memory in fruit flies. Note that Orb2 depicts prion-like abilities under certain conditions. It forms clusters or aggregates and can transform itself from one physical state to another.
The research was carried out using the tools that allow rapid and reversible inactivation of Orb2 protein in neurons. The researchers found that Orb2 acts as a potential, physical substrate, encodes memory and serves as a molecular signature for long-term memory. They also discovered that Orb2 aggregation is assisted by a DnaJ family chaperone, JJJ2. In addition, JJJ2 enhances the development of long-term memory as well.
The findings of the study were published in the journal Current Biology. The study focuses on the molecular basis for the establishment of a memory trace.
The researchers used Drosophila as a model organism to study memory. They were successful in exploiting two different types of memories.
What does the research find?
At first, the researchers conducted a male courtship suppression memory experiment. It measured the ability of a male fruit fly to learn and retain the memory of a female fruit fly’s interest in his courtship. In the second type of experiment, the researchers examined the ability of a fruit fly to associate one of two odors with a food source.
These two types of memories revealed the three ways in which Orb2 seems to control the dynamics of memory.
- Once the memory is formed, it can be inactivated temporally and recover in an Orb2-dependent manner.
- Secondly, the facilitation of Orb2 aggregation by JJJ2 enhances the fruit flies’ ability to form long-lasting memory.
- Finally, the amount of Orb2 aggregated predicts the stability of memory.
All of these findings suggest that Orb2 constitutes a biochemical trace for memory. Furthermore, it may help the researchers to understand what leads to loss of memory.
According to the expert team, the results of the study are evident that prion-like proteins play a positive role in the formation and retention of long-term memory. The respective research details the explanation regarding the difference between functional, or good, protein aggregates and toxic aggregates. This could potentially help scientists to find ways to control or manage prions contributing to diseases.
Summary of the findings
The study enumerates what underlies the making of a memory. It used molecular tools to manipulate a prion-like protein, called Orb2, in fruit flies. The researchers discovered evidence for specific molecular changes, necessary for the creation, storage, and recovery of memories. The protein Orb2 reportedly appears to be a part of a memory stamp in the brain. It may be produced by a particular experience. Furthermore, the researchers also discovered another protein called JJJ2. It is a DnaJ family chaperone. The basic contribution of JJJ2 was to assist Orb2 in the formation of long-term memory.
This respective research work provides insight into the formation and retention of memory in the fruit fly brain. Humans possess a counterpart protein called CPEB. It suggests that similar mechanisms may be involved in human memory.