Classical studies have demonstrated a role for protein synthesis in long-term memory. The focus of our research is to identify the proteins that are essential for memory and to discover how they contribute to activity-dependent neuronal plasticity. We have developed whole-animal models that maximize the induction of activity-dependent genes and have used differential cloning techniques to identify a set of novel, neuronal immediate-early genes (IEGs). Neuronal IEGs encode transcription factors, cytoskeletal proteins, growth factors, metabolic enzymes, and proteins involved in signal transduction. The biochemical and cell biological properties of these molecules provide important insights into mechanisms that contribute to neuronal plasticity. Recently, we identified a subset of IEGs that appear to function at the synapse. These molecules extend the functional repertoire of IEGs and may provide insight into how IEGs can contribute to synapse-specific plasticity.
Copyright 1998 Academic Press.