A role for the Ras signalling pathway in synaptic transmission and long-term memory.
Brambilla R., Gnesutta N., Minichiello L., White G., Roylance AJ., Herron CE., Ramsey M., Wolfer DP., Cestari V., Rossi-Arnaud C., Grant SG., Chapman PF., Lipp HP., Sturani E., Klein R.
Members of the Ras subfamily of small guanine-nucleotide-binding proteins are essential for controlling normal and malignant cell proliferation as well as cell differentiation. The neuronal-specific guanine-nucleotide-exchange factor, Ras-GRF/CDC25Mm, induces Ras signalling in response to Ca2+ influx and activation of G-protein-coupled receptors in vitro, suggesting that it plays a role in neurotransmission and plasticity in vivo. Here we report that mice lacking Ras-GRF are impaired in the process of memory consolidation, as revealed by emotional conditioning tasks that require the function of the amygdala; learning and short-term memory are intact. Electrophysiological measurements in the basolateral amygdala reveal that long-term plasticity is abnormal in mutant mice. In contrast, Ras-GRF mutants do not reveal major deficits in spatial learning tasks such as the Morris water maze, a test that requires hippocampal function. Consistent with apparently normal hippocampal functions, Ras-GRF mutants show normal NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate) receptor-dependent long-term potentiation in this structure. These results implicate Ras-GRF signalling via the Ras/MAP kinase pathway in synaptic events leading to formation of long-term memories.