The formation of a long-lasting memory requires a transcription-dependent consolidation period that converts a short-term memory into a long-term memory. Nuclear receptors compose a class of transcription factors that regulate diverse biological processes, and several nuclear receptors have been implicated in memory formation. Here, we examined the potential contribution of nuclear receptors to memory consolidation by measuring the expression of all 49 murine nuclear receptors after learning. We identified 13 nuclear receptors with increased expression after learning, including all 3 members of the Nr4a subfamily. These CREB-regulated Nr4a genes encode ligand-independent “orphan” nuclear receptors. We found that blocking NR4A activity in memory-supporting brain regions impaired long-term memory but did not impact short-term memory in mice. Further, expression of Nr4a genes increased following the memory-enhancing effects of histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors. Blocking NR4A signaling interfered with the ability of HDAC inhibitors to enhance memory. These results demonstrate that the Nr4a gene family contributes to memory formation and is a promising target for improving cognitive function.
Joshua D. Hawk, Angie L. Bookout, Shane G. Poplawski, Morgan Bridi, Allison J. Rao, Michael E. Sulewski, Brian T. Kroener, David J. Manglesdorf, Ted Abel
The formation of contextual fear memories induces expression of NR genes in the hippocampus.