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University of Vermont Theses & Dissertations

Chihabi, Kutibh
Learning and memory has been a topic that has captured the attention of the scientific and public communities since the dawn of scientific discovery. Without the faculty of memory, mammals cannot experience nor function in the world; among homosapiens specifically, language, relationships, and personal identity cannot be developed (Eysenck, 2012). After all, some philosophers such as John Locke argued we are nothing but a collection of past memories in which we have developed and improved upon (Nimbalkar, 2011). Understanding the cellular mechanisms behind learning, and the subsequent formation of memory, has been a topic that has garnered scientific interest for many decades. One particular kinase that has been at the center of attention in the last decade is the serine/threonine kinase PKM-ζ, an N-terminal truncated form of PKC-ζ that renders it constitutively active (Hernandez et al., 2003). PKM-ζ has long been implicated in a cellular correlate of learning, long-term potentiation (LTP). Inhibition of PKM-ζ with Zeta-inhibitory peptide (ZIP) has been shown in many brain structures to disrupt maintenance of AMPA receptors, irreversibly disrupting numerous forms of learning and memory that have been maintained for weeks. The voltage-gated potassium channel Kv1.2 is a critical modulator of neuronal physiology, including dendritic excitability, action potential propagation, and neurotransmitter release. While expressed in various mammalian tissues, Kv1.2 is most prevalent in the cerebellum where it modulates both dendritic excitability of Purkinje cells (PCs) and basket cell (BC) inhibitory input to PCs. Because PCs are the main computational unit of the cerebellar cortex and provide its sole output (Napper et al., 1988; Harvey et al., 1991), regulation of synaptic Kv1.2 is predicted to have a major role in cerebellar function. Pharmacological inhibition of Kv1.2 in cerebellar PC dendrites increases excitability (Khavandgar et al., 2005), while its inhibition in BC axon terminals increases inhibition to PCs (Southan & Robertson, 1998). Interestingly, two prior studies have demonstrated that PKC-ζ, an atypical Protein Kinase C, is able to phosphorylate and bind cerebellar Kvβ2, a Kv1.2 auxiliary subunit. (Gong et al., 1999; Croci et al., 2003). Delay eyeblink conditioning (EBC) is an established model for the assessment of cerebellar learning. Despite being highly expressed in the cerebellum, no studies have examined how regulation of cerebellar PKM-ζ may affect cerebellar-dependent learning and memory nor have they examined the possible effect PKM-ζ may have on Kv1.2. The goal of this dissertation was to determine whether PKM-ζ could modulate EBC in a Kv1.2 dependent manner. Through the use of microscopy techniques we have shown that PKM-ζ is highly expressed in the cerebellar cortex, primarily in the PC, and by the use of pharmacological manipulations, it was found that PKM-ζ has an important role in regulating the acquisition of EBC. Through the use of biotinylation, flow cytometry, and behavioral manipulations, it was determined that PKM-ζ regulates Kv1.2 during eyeblink conditioning. These studies provided the first evidence that PKM-ζ has a role for learning and memory in the cerebellum, and the first evidence of PKM-ζ regulating a voltage-gated ion channel rather than a ligand-gated ion channel such as AMPA receptors.

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