The Role of CREB, SRF, and MEF2 in Activity-Dependent Neuronal Plasticity in the Visual Cortex

J Neurosci. 2017 Jul 12;37(28):6628-6637. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0766-17.2017. Epub 2017 Jun 12.


The transcription factors CREB (cAMP response element binding factor), SRF (serum response factor), and MEF2 (myocyte enhancer factor 2) play critical roles in the mechanisms underlying neuronal plasticity. However, the role of the activation of these transcription factors in the different components of plasticity in vivo is not well known. In this study, we tested the role of CREB, SRF, and MEF2 in ocular dominance plasticity (ODP), a paradigm of activity-dependent neuronal plasticity in the visual cortex. These three proteins bind to the synaptic activity response element (SARE), an enhancer sequence found upstream of many plasticity-related genes (Kawashima et al., 2009; Rodríguez-Tornos et al., 2013), and can act cooperatively to express Arc, a gene required for ODP (McCurry et al., 2010). We used viral-mediated gene transfer to block the transcription function of CREB, SRF, and MEF2 in the visual cortex, and measured visually evoked potentials in awake male and female mice before and after a 7 d monocular deprivation, which allowed us to examine both the depression component (Dc-ODP) and potentiation component (Pc-ODP) of plasticity independently. We found that CREB, SRF, and MEF2 are all required for ODP, but have differential effects on Dc-ODP and Pc-ODP. CREB is necessary for both Dc-ODP and Pc-ODP, whereas SRF and MEF2 are only needed for Dc-ODP. This finding supports previous reports implicating SRF and MEF2 in long-term depression (required for Dc-ODP), and CREB in long-term potentiation (required for Pc-ODP).SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Activity-dependent neuronal plasticity is the cellular basis for learning and memory, and it is crucial for the refinement of neuronal circuits during development. Identifying the mechanisms of activity-dependent neuronal plasticity is crucial to finding therapeutic interventions in the myriad of disorders where it is disrupted, such as Fragile X syndrome, Rett syndrome, epilepsy, major depressive disorder, and autism spectrum disorder. Transcription factors are essential nuclear proteins that trigger the expression of gene programs required for long-term functional and structural plasticity changes. Our results elucidate the specific role of the transcription factors CREB, SRF, and MEF2 in the depression and potentiation components of ODP in vivo, therefore better informing future attempts to find therapeutic targets for diseases where activity-dependent plasticity is disrupted.

Keywords: CREB; MEF2; SRF; plasticity; transcription factors; visual cortex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cyclic AMP Response Element-Binding Protein / metabolism*
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual / physiology*
  • Female
  • MEF2 Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Serum Response Factor / metabolism*
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology


  • Creb1 protein, mouse
  • Cyclic AMP Response Element-Binding Protein
  • MEF2 Transcription Factors
  • Serum Response Factor