Transcription factors in long-term memory and synaptic plasticity

Physiol Rev. 2009 Jan;89(1):121-45. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00017.2008.


Transcription is a molecular requisite for long-term synaptic plasticity and long-term memory formation. Thus, in the last several years, one main interest of molecular neuroscience has been the identification of families of transcription factors that are involved in both of these processes. Transcription is a highly regulated process that involves the combined interaction and function of chromatin and many other proteins, some of which are essential for the basal process of transcription, while others control the selective activation or repression of specific genes. These regulated interactions ultimately allow a sophisticated response to multiple environmental conditions, as well as control of spatial and temporal differences in gene expression. Evidence based on correlative changes in expression, genetic mutations, and targeted molecular inhibition of gene expression have shed light on the function of transcription in both synaptic plasticity and memory formation. This review provides a brief overview of experimental work showing that several families of transcription factors, including CREB, C/EBP, Egr, AP-1, and Rel, have essential functions in both processes. The results of this work suggest that patterns of transcription regulation represent the molecular signatures of long-term synaptic changes and memory formation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CCAAT-Enhancer-Binding Proteins / physiology
  • Chromatin / physiology
  • Cyclic AMP Response Element-Binding Protein / physiology
  • Early Growth Response Transcription Factors / physiology
  • Humans
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Synapses / physiology*
  • Transcription Factors / physiology*


  • CCAAT-Enhancer-Binding Proteins
  • Chromatin
  • Cyclic AMP Response Element-Binding Protein
  • Early Growth Response Transcription Factors
  • Transcription Factors