MAPK interacting protein kinases 1 and 2 (Mnk1/2) regulate a plethora of functions, presumably via phosphorylation of their best characterized substrate, eukaryotic translation initiation factor 4E (eIF4E) on Ser209. Here, we show that, whereas deletion of Mnk1/2 (Mnk double knockout) impairs synaptic plasticity and memory in mice, ablation of phospho-eIF4E (Ser209) does not affect these processes, suggesting that Mnk1/2 possess additional downstream effectors in the brain. Translational profiling revealed only a small overlap between the Mnk1/2- and phospho-eIF4E(Ser209)-regulated translatome. We identified the synaptic Ras GTPase activating protein 1 (Syngap1), encoded by a syndromic autism gene, as a downstream target of Mnk1 because Syngap1 immunoprecipitated with Mnk1 and showed reduced phosphorylation (S788) in Mnk double knockout mice. Knockdown of Syngap1 reversed memory deficits in Mnk double knockout mice and pharmacological inhibition of Mnks rescued autism-related phenotypes in Syngap1+/- mice. Thus, Syngap1 is a downstream effector of Mnk1, and the Mnks-Syngap1 axis regulates memory formation and autism-related behaviours.
Keywords: autism; learning; memory; phosphorylation; synaptic translation; translational control.
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