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Fear learning induces α7-nicotinic acetylcholine receptor-mediated astrocytic responsiveness that is required for memory persistence.

Nat Neurosci. 2021 Nov 15. doi: 10.1038/s41593-021-00949-8. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34782794.

Authors/Editors: Zhang K, Förster R, He W, Liao X, Li J, Yang C, Qin H, Wang M, Ding R, Li R, Jian T, Wang Y, Zhang J, Yang Z, Jin W, Zhang Y, Qin S, Lu Y, Chen T, Stobart J, Weber B, Adelsberger H, Konnerth A, Chen X.
Publication Date: 2021


Memory persistence is a fundamental cognitive process for guiding behaviors and is considered to rely mostly on neuronal and synaptic plasticity. Whether and how astrocytes contribute to memory persistence is largely unknown. Here, by using two-photon Ca2+ imaging in head-fixed mice and fiber photometry in freely moving mice, we show that aversive sensory stimulation activates α7-nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) in a subpopulation of astrocytes in the auditory cortex. We demonstrate that fear learning causes the de novo induction of sound-evoked Ca2+ transients in these astrocytes. The astrocytic responsiveness persisted over days along with fear memory and disappeared in animals that underwent extinction of learned freezing behavior. Conditional genetic deletion of α7-nAChRs in astrocytes significantly impaired fear memory persistence. We conclude that learning-acquired, α7-nAChR-dependent astrocytic responsiveness is an integral part of the cellular substrate underlying memory persistence.

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