An increase in protein synthesis following learning is a fundamental and evolutionarily conserved mechanism of long-term memory. To maintain homeostasis, this protein synthesis must be counterbalanced by mechanisms such as protein degradation. Recent studies reported that macroautophagy/autophagy, a major protein degradation mechanism, is required for long-term memory formation. However, how learning regulates autophagy and recruits it into long-term memory formation remains to be established. Here, we show that inhibitory avoidance in rats significantly increases the levels of autophagy and lysosomal degradation proteins, including BECN1/beclin 1, LC3-II, SQSTM1/p62 and LAMP1, as well as autophagic flux in the hippocampus. Moreover, pharmacological inhibition or targeted molecular disruption of the learning-induced autophagy impairs long-term memory, leaving short-term memory intact. The increase in autophagy proteins results from active translation of their mRNA and not from changes in their total mRNA levels. Additionally, the induction of autophagy requires the immediate early gene Arc/Arg3.1. Finally, in contrast to classical regulation of autophagy in other systems, we found that the increase in autophagy upon learning is dispensable for the increase in protein synthesis. We conclude that coupling between learning-induced translation and autophagy, rather than translation per se, is an essential mechanism of long-term memory.Abbreviations: AAV: adeno-associated virus; ARC/ARG3.1: activity regulated cytoskeletal-associated protein; ATG: autophagy related; DG: dentate gyrus; GFP: green fluorescent protein; IA: inhibitory avoidance; LAMP1: lysosomal-associated membrane protein 1; MAP1LC3B/LC3B: microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3 beta; ODN: oligodeoxynucleotide; qPCR: quantitative polymerase chain reaction; SBI: SBI0206965; SQSTM1/p62: sequestosome 1; SUnSET: surface sensing of translation; TRAP: translating ribosome affinity purification; ULK1: unc-51 like kinase 1.
Keywords: Arc/Arg3.1; autophagic flux; autophagy; memory; translating ribosome affinity purification; translation.