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A Putative Biochemical Engram of Long-Term Memory.

ABSTRACT

How a transient experience creates an enduring yet dynamic memory remains an unresolved issue in studies of memory. Experience-dependent aggregation of the RNA-binding protein CPEB/Orb2 is one of the candidate mechanisms of memory maintenance. Here, using tools that allow rapid and reversible inactivation of Orb2 protein in neurons, we find that Orb2 activity is required for encoding and recall of memory. From a screen, we have identified a DNA-J family chaperone, JJJ2, which facilitates Orb2 aggregation, and ectopic expression of JJJ2 enhances the animal's capacity to form long-term memory. Finally, we have developed tools to visualize training-dependent aggregation of Orb2. We find that aggregated Orb2 in a subset of mushroom body neurons can serve as a "molecular signature" of memory and predict memory strength. Our data indicate that self-sustaining aggregates of Orb2 may serve as a physical substrate of memory and provide a molecular basis for the perduring yet malleable nature of memory.