Most long-term memories are forgotten. What happens, then, to the changes in neuronal gene expression that were initially required to encode and maintain the memory? Here we show that the decay of recall for long-term sensitization memory in Aplysia is accompanied both by a form of savings memory (easier relearning) and by persistent transcriptional regulation. A behavioral experiment (N = 14) shows that sensitization training produces a robust long-term sensitization memory, but that recall fades completely within 1 wk. This apparent forgetting, though, is belied by persistent savings memory, as we found that a weak reminder protocol reinstates a long-term sensitization memory only on the previously trained side of the body. Using microarray (N = 8 biological replicates), we found that transcriptional regulation largely decays along with recall. Of the transcripts known to be regulated 1 d after training, 98% (1172/1198) are no longer significantly regulated 7 d after training. Still, there is a small set of transcripts which remain strongly regulated even when recall is absent. Using qPCR (N = 11 additional biological replicates) we confirmed that these include the peptide transmitter FMRFamide, a transcript encoding a putative homolog of spectrin beta chain (Genbank: EB255259) , a transcript encoding a protein with a predicted EF-hand calcium-binding domain (Genbank: EB257711), and eight uncharacterized transcripts. To our knowledge, this is the first work to show that transcriptional changes evoked by learning can outlast recall. The small set of transcriptional changes that persist could mediate the rapid relearning of the memory (savings), or the decay of recall, or both, or neither.
© 2018 Perez et al.; Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.