The importance of first-hand accounts

Memory depends on stable molecular changes in specialized structures called synapses, the points of contact between brain cells. However, synapses do not work alone: the nucleus, the executive structure of cells, controls the synthesis of synaptic proteins needed for memory.

Toh Hean Ch'ng and colleagues in Kelsey Martin’s lab at ICLM reported recently in the leading journal Cell that a nuclear molecule called CRTC1 actually hangs around inactive synapses. When synapses are activated (they are activated during learning) CRTC1 rushes to the nucleus and has a critical role in directing molecular synthesis processes needed for memory. This important discovery blurred the distinction between synaptic and nuclear molecules involved in memory formation. This exciting finding shows that some of the very molecules that regulate nuclear processes required for memory, deliver to the nucleus “first-hand accounts” of synaptic activity during learning!