Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology

, Volume 5, Issue 1–2, pp 183–207 | Cite as

The role of brain extracellular proteins in neuroplasticity and learning

  • Victor E. Shashoua


  1. 1.

    Double labeling studies of the pattern of protein synthesis in goldfish and mouse brain identified a class of glycoproteins (the ependymins) whose turnover rate was enhanced after training. A variety of control experiments indicated that these macromolecules have an important role in the molecular and cell biology of learning. Antisera to the ependymins when injected into the brains of trained goldfish cause amnesia of a newly acquired behavior.

  2. 2.

    Isolation and localization studies by immunocytochemical methods indicate that the ependymins are released into the brain extracellular fluid by a class of neurosecretory cells. In mammalian brain ependymin-containing cells are highly concentrated in the limibic system.

  3. 3.

    The ependymins are constituted from two disulfide-linked acidic polypeptide chains (M.W. 37K and 31K). They contain at least 5% covalently bound carbohydrate per chain with mannose, galactose, N-acetylglucosamine and N-acetylneuraminic acid as the predominant components.

  4. 4.

    The highly soluble ependymins can rapidly polymerize to form an insoluble fibrous matrix if calcium is removed from solution by the addition of a Ca2+ -chelating agent or dialysis.

  5. 5.

    The self-aggregation property of the ependymins can be triggered by the depletion of Ca2+ from the extracellular space. Studies of the kinetics of the aggregation phenomenon by measurements of turbidity changes indicate that the process can be terminated but not reversed by restoring Ca2+ to its normal CSF level.

  6. 6.

    Immunohistochemical studies of the brains of trained goldfish show the presence of punctate statining sites in the perimeter of certain cells located in specific brain regions. This suggests that ependymin aggregation might occurin vivo during learning.

  7. 7.

    A molecular hypothesis relating the aggregation properties of the ependymins to neuroplasticity and learning is proposed.


Key words

glycoproteins ependymins learning protein aggregation goldfish extracellular matrix mice 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Victor E. Shashoua
    • 1
  1. 1.Ralph Lowell LaboratoriesMailman Research Center, McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical SchoolBelmontUSA

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