AU-rich element-binding protein negatively regulates CCAAT enhancer-binding protein mRNA stability during long-term synaptic plasticity in Aplysia.

The consolidation of long-term memory for sensitization and synaptic facilitation in Aplysia requires synthesis of new mRNA including the immediate early gene Aplysia CCAAT enhancer-binding protein (ApC/EBP). After the rapid induction of ApC/EBP expression in response to repeated treatments of 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT), ApC/EBP mRNA is temporarily expressed in sensory neurons of sensory-to-motor synapses. However, the molecular mechanism underlying the rapid degradation of ApC/EBP transcript is not known. Here, we cloned an AU-rich element (ARE)-binding protein, ApAUF1, which functions as a destabilizing factor for ApC/EBP mRNA. ApAUF1 was found to bind to the 3' UTR of ApC/EBP mRNA that contains AREs and subsequently reduces the expression of ApC/EBP 3' UTR-containing reporter genes. Moreover, overexpression of ApAUF1 inhibited the induction of ApC/EBP mRNA in sensory neurons and also impaired long-term facilitation of sensory-to-motor synapses by repetitive 5-HT treatments. These results provide evidence for a critical role of the posttranscriptional modification of ApC/EBP mRNA during the consolidation of synaptic plasticity.