Background: The cAMP responsive element binding protein (CREB) is a transcription factor the activity of which is modulated by increases in the intracellular levels of cAMP and calcium. Results from studies with Aplysia, Drosophila and mice indicate that CREB-activated transcription is required for long-term memory. Furthermore, a recent study found that long-term memory for olfactory conditioning can be induced with a single trial in transgenic Drosophila expressing a CREB activator, whereas in normal flies, with presumably lower CREB-mediated transcription levels, conditioning requires multiple spaced trials. This suggests that CREB-mediated transcription is important in determining the type of training required for long-term memory of olfactory conditioning in Drosophila. Interestingly, studies with cultured Aplysia neurons indicated that removing a CREB repressor promoted the formation of long-term facilitation, a cellular model of non-associative memory.
Results: Here, we have confirmed that mice lacking the alpha and Delta CREB proteins (CREBalphaDelta-) have abnormal long-term, but not short-term, memory, as tested in an ethologically meaningful task. Importantly, additional spaced training can overcome the profound memory deficits of CREBalphaDelta- mutants. Increasing the intertrial interval from 1 to 60 minutes overcame the memory deficits of the CREBalphaDelta- mice in three distinct behavioral tasks: contextual fear conditioning, spatial learning and socially transmitted food preferences.
Conclusions: Previous findings and results presented here demonstrate that CREB mutant mice have profound long-term memory deficits. Importantly, our findings indicate that manipulations of CREB function can affect the number of trials and the intertrial interval required for committing information to long-term memory. Remarkably, this effect of CREB function is not restricted to simple conditioning tasks, but also affects complex behaviours such as spatial memory and memory for socially transmitted food preferences.