eIF2alpha phosphorylation bidirectionally regulates the switch from short- to long-term synaptic plasticity and memory

Cell. 2007 Apr 6;129(1):195-206. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2007.01.050.


The late phase of long-term potentiation (LTP) and memory (LTM) requires new gene expression, but the molecular mechanisms that underlie these processes are not fully understood. Phosphorylation of eIF2alpha inhibits general translation but selectively stimulates translation of ATF4, a repressor of CREB-mediated late-LTP (L-LTP) and LTM. We used a pharmacogenetic bidirectional approach to examine the role of eIF2alpha phosphorylation in synaptic plasticity and behavioral learning. We show that in eIF2alpha(+/S51A) mice, in which eIF2alpha phosphorylation is reduced, the threshold for eliciting L-LTP in hippocampal slices is lowered, and memory is enhanced. In contrast, only early-LTP is evoked by repeated tetanic stimulation and LTM is impaired, when eIF2alpha phosphorylation is increased by injecting into the hippocampus a small molecule, Sal003, which prevents the dephosphorylation of eIF2alpha. These findings highlight the importance of a single phosphorylation site in eIF2alpha as a key regulator of L-LTP and LTM formation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activating Transcription Factor 4 / genetics
  • Amino Acid Substitution
  • Animals
  • Auditory Pathways / physiology
  • Brain / anatomy & histology
  • Brain / physiology
  • Cinnamates / pharmacology
  • Conditioning, Psychological
  • Eukaryotic Initiation Factor-2 / metabolism*
  • Fear / physiology
  • Gene Expression
  • Hippocampus / physiology
  • Long-Term Potentiation / drug effects
  • Long-Term Potentiation / physiology*
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Phosphorylation / drug effects
  • Protein Biosynthesis
  • Synapses / physiology*
  • Taste / physiology
  • Thiourea / analogs & derivatives
  • Thiourea / pharmacology


  • Atf4 protein, mouse
  • Cinnamates
  • Eukaryotic Initiation Factor-2
  • salubrinal
  • Activating Transcription Factor 4
  • Thiourea