The role of protein phosphorylation in the gustatory cortex and amygdala during taste learning

Exp Neurobiol. 2012 Jun;21(2):37-51. doi: 10.5607/en.2012.21.2.37. Epub 2012 Jun 12.


Protein phosphorylation and dephosphorylation form a major post-translation mechanism that enables a given cell to respond to ever-changing internal and external environments. Neurons, similarly to any other cells, use protein phosphorylation/dephosphorylation to maintain an internal homeostasis, but they also use it for updating the state of synaptic and intrinsic properties, following activation by neurotransmitters and growth factors. In the present review we focus on the roles of several families of kinases, phosphatases, and other synaptic-plasticity-related proteins, which activate membrane receptors and various intracellular signals to promote transcription, translation and protein degradation, and to regulate the appropriate cellular proteomes required for taste memory acquisition, consolidation and maintenance. Attention is especially focused on the protein phosphorylation state in two forebrain areas that are necessary for taste-memory learning and retrieval: the insular cortex and the amygdala. The various temporal phases of taste learning require the activation of appropriate waves of biochemical signals. These include: extracellular signal regulated kinase I and II (ERKI/II) signal transduction pathways; Ca(2+)-dependent pathways; tyrosine kinase/phosphatase-dependent pathways; brain-derived neurotrophicfactor (BDNF)-dependent pathways; cAMP-responsive element bindingprotein (CREB); and translation-regulation factors, such as initiation and elongation factors, and the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR). Interestingly, coding of hedonic and aversive taste information in the forebrain requires activation of different signal transduction pathways.

Keywords: ERK-MAPK; amygdala; insular cortex; phosphorylation; taste; translation regulation.