Study: Fruit flies can't learn without certain enzyme

By Brooks Hays  |  Feb. 7, 2017 at 4:32 PM
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Feb. 7 (UPI) -- New research shows learning and memory formation in fruit flies relies on a special enzyme called Histone Deacetylase Inhibitor 6, or HDAC6.

Scientists have mostly studied HDAC6 in the context of neurological disorders and diseases -- as a target for drugs treating amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and Huntington's.

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside wanted to understand the enzyme's role in healthy and functioning neurons.

Experiments with fruit flies suggest the enzyme works like a "dimmer switch," regulating synapse signaling. Boosting and slowing neuronal connectivity as the fly learns something new and forms new memories.

When researchers disrupted HDAC6 expression in fruit flies, the specimens proved incapable of olfactory memory retention. Scientists detailed the results of their experiments in the journal Cell Reports.

Drugs that target HDAC6 could be used to both ramp up synapse connectivity, for patients with memory loss, and slow synapse connectivity, for patients with PTSD.

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