Immediate-early genes (IEGs) are rapidly activated after sensory and behavioral experience and are believed to be crucial for converting experience into long-term memory. Neuronal PAS domain protein 4 (Npas4), a recently discovered IEG, has several characteristics that make it likely to be a particularly important molecular link between neuronal activity and memory: it is among the most rapidly induced IEGs, is expressed only in neurons, and is selectively induced by neuronal activity. By orchestrating distinct activity-dependent gene programs in different neuronal populations, Npas4 affects synaptic connections in excitatory and inhibitory neurons, neural circuit plasticity, and memory formation. It may also be involved in circuit homeostasis through negative feedback and psychiatric disorders. We summarize these findings and discuss their implications.
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