TitleThe Making of Long-Lasting Memories: A Fruit Fly Perspective.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2021
AuthorsRoselli C, Ramaswami M, Boto T, Cervantes-Sandoval I
JournalFront Behav Neurosci.
Date Published03/2021

Understanding the nature of the molecular mechanisms underlying memory formation, consolidation, and forgetting are some of the fascinating questions in modern neuroscience. The encoding, stabilization and elimination of memories, rely on the structural reorganization of synapses. These changes will enable the facilitation or depression of neural activity in response to the acquisition of new information. In other words, these changes affect the weight of specific nodes within a neural network. We know that these plastic reorganizations require de novo protein synthesis in the context of Long-term memory (LTM). This process depends on neural activity triggered by the learned experience. The use of model organisms like Drosophila melanogaster has been proven essential for advancing our knowledge in the field of neuroscience. Flies offer an optimal combination of a more straightforward nervous system, composed of a limited number of cells, and while still displaying complex behaviors. Studies in Drosophila neuroscience, which expanded over several decades, have been critical for understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms leading to the synaptic and behavioral plasticity occurring in the context of learning and memory. This is possible thanks to sophisticated technical approaches that enable precise control of gene expression in the fruit fly as well as neural manipulation, like chemogenetics, thermogenetics, or optogenetics. The search for the identity of genes expressed as a result of memory acquisition has been an active interest since the origins of behavioral genetics. From screenings of more or less specific candidates to broader studies based on transcriptome analysis, our understanding of the genetic control behind LTM has expanded exponentially in the past years. Here we review recent literature regarding how the formation of memories induces a rapid, extensive and, in many cases, transient wave of transcriptional activity. After a consolidation period, transcriptome changes seem more stable and likely represent the synthesis of new proteins. The complexity of the circuitry involved in memory formation and consolidation is such that there are localized changes in neural activity, both regarding temporal dynamics and the nature of neurons and subcellular locations affected, hence inducing specific temporal and localized changes in protein expression. Different types of neurons are recruited at different times into memory traces. In LTM, the synthesis of new proteins is required in specific subsets of cells. This de novo translation can take place in the somatic cytoplasm and/or locally in distinct zones of compartmentalized synaptic activity, depending on the nature of the proteins and the plasticity-inducing processes that occur. We will also review recent advances in understanding how localized changes are confined to the relevant synapse. These recent studies have led to exciting discoveries regarding proteins that were not previously involved in learning and memory processes. This invaluable information will lead to future functional studies on the roles that hundreds of new molecular actors play in modulating neural activity.