Late-phase long-term potentiation (L-LTP), a cellular model for long-term memory (LTM), requires de novo protein synthesis. An attractive hypothesis for synapse specificity of long-term memory is "synaptic tagging": synaptic activity generates a tag, which "captures" the PRPs (plasticity-related proteins) derived outside of synapses. Here we provide evidence that TrkB, the receptor of BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), may serve as a "synaptic tag." TrkB is transiently activated by weak theta-burst stimulation (TBS) that induces only early-phase LTP (E-LTP). This TrkB activation is independent of protein synthesis, and confined to stimulated synapses. Induction of L-LTP by strong stimulation in one synaptic pathway converts weak TBS-induced E-LTP to L-LTP in a second, independent pathway. Transient inhibition of TrkB around the time of weak TBS to the second pathway diminished L-LTP in that pathway without affecting the first one. Behaviorally, weak training, which induces short-term memory (STM) but not LTM, can be consolidated into LTM by exposing animals to novel but not familiar environment 1 h before training. Inhibition of TrkB during STM training blocked such consolidation. These results suggest TrkB as a potential tag for synapsespecific expression of L-LTP and LTM.
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