Scripps Scientists Study Role of MicroRNAs in Networks for Learning and Memory in Fly Model; Possible Links to Neurodegenerative Diseases Such As Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s Suggested

Scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have found that a type of genetic material called “microRNA” (miRNAs) plays surprisingly different roles in the formation of memory in animal models. In some cases, these RNAs increase memory, while in other cases these RNAs decrease memory. “Our systematic screen offers an important first step toward the comprehensive identification of all miRNAs and their potential targets that serve in gene networks important for normal learning and memory,” said Dr. Ron Davis, Chair of TSRI’s Department of Neuroscience, who led the study. “This is a valuable resource for future studies.” The study was published in the June 1, 2015 edition of the journal Genetics. The article is titled “MicroRNAs That Promote or Inhibit Memory Formation in Drosophila melanogaster.” Unlike some types of RNA, miRNAs do not code for proteins, but instead regulate various biological processes by modulating the level of gene expression. A number of studies have shown that miRNAs are critical for normal development and cellular growth and may contribute to the complexity of neurodegenerative diseases. In the new study, 134 different miRNAs were tested for roles in learning and memory in the central nervous system of Drosophila melanogaster, the common fruit fly, which is a recognized animal model for memory studies. The researchers tested the potential involvement of miRNAs in intermediate-term memory by silencing them individually and identified at least five different miRNAs involved in memory formation or retention. “Among the five miRNAs identified in this study, we found one that is necessary for memory formation,” said Research Associate Dr. Germain U. Busto, a first author of the study with Research Associate Dr. Tugba Guven-Ozkan.
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