Prion Protein Is Necessary for Latent Learning and Long-Term Memory Retention
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1. The cellular prion protein, designated PrPc, is a key molecule in the prion diseases but its physiological function remains unknown. To elucidate whether PrPc plays some role in the central nervous system, we established a line of mice in which the PrP gene had been disrupted and subsequently conducted long-term observations.
2. Performance in latent learning and passive avoidance was evaluated using water-finding and step-through tests, respectively.
3. PrP–/– mice showed impaired performance in the water-finding test, indicating a disturbance in latent learning, at 23 weeks of age. In the step-through test, although the PrP–/– mice showed normal learning ability and short-term memory retention, they evidenced a significant disturbance in long-term memory retention.
4. These results indicate that PrPc is needed for certain types of learning and memory and that the loss of function of this protein may contribute to the pathogenesis of prion diseases.
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