Study Reveals Key Role Of Saturated Fatty Acids In Memory Formation

The brain is the body's most fatty organ, comprising 60 per cent of its weight in fatty compounds known as lipids. Fatty acids are the essential components of a group of lipids known as phospholipids.
Study Reveals Key Role Of Saturated Fatty Acids In Memory Formation
Study Reveals Key Role Of Saturated Fatty Acids In Memory FormationREPRESENTATIVE

The University of Queensland researchers have shown the important function of saturated fatty acids in the brain's memory storage.

Dr. Isaac Akefe from the Queensland Brain Institute at the University of Queensland has conducted research that could lead to a potential new treatment for neurodegenerative diseases. Additionally, he has identified the genes responsible for memory formation. These significant findings were documented in the EMBO Journal.

"We've shown previously that levels of saturated fatty acids increase in the brain during neuronal communication, but we didn't know what was causing these changes," Dr Akefe said.

"Now for the first time, we've identified alterations in the brain's fatty acid landscape when the neurons encode a memory. An enzyme called Phospholipase A1 (PLA1) interacts with another protein at the synapse called STXBP1 to form saturated fatty acids," added Dr Akefe.

The brain is the body's most fatty organ, comprising 60 per cent of its weight in fatty compounds known as lipids. Fatty acids are the essential components of a group of lipids known as phospholipids.

The research conducted in Professor Frederic Meunier's lab has demonstrated that STXBP1 regulates the localization of the PLA1 enzyme, overseeing the discharge of fatty acids and guiding synaptic communication in the brain.

"Human mutations in the PLA1 and STXBP1 genes reduce free fatty acid levels and promote neurological disorders," Professor Meunier said.

"To determine the importance of free fatty acids in memory formation, we used mouse models where the PLA1 gene was removed. We tracked the onset and progression of neurological and cognitive decline throughout their lives. We saw that even before their memories became impaired, their saturated free fatty acid levels were significantly lower than control mice. This indicates that this PLA1 enzyme, and the fatty acids it releases, play a key role in memory acquisition."

The study has significant implications for our comprehension of the formation of memories.

"Our findings indicate that manipulating this memory acquisition pathway has exciting potential as a treatment for neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's," Professor Meunier said.

The research team acknowledges the contributions of PhD candidates Saber Abd Elkader from the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, and Benjamin Matthews from the Queensland Brain Institute.

This study involves collaboration with the University of New South Wales, University of Strasbourg, University of Bordeaux, the Scripp Research Institute, and the Baylor College of Medicine.

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