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Fatty acids play crucial role in memory formation: study

By Xinhua
Published : 07 Feb 2024 11:58 PM

A team led by researchers from the University of Queensland (UQ) has recently shed new light on the crucial role of saturated free fatty acids (FFAs) in the brain's memory creation process.

"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," Isaac Akefe, lead author of the study and research fellow at UQ, said on Tuesday.

"Now for the first time, we've identified alterations in the brain's fatty acid landscape when the neurons encode a memory," the scholar noted.

In their latest paper published in EMBO Journal, researchers dived deep into a novel interaction between the Phospholipase A1 (PLA1) isoform DDHD2 and a key synaptic protein dubbed STXBP1 by conducting longitudinal experiments on mice.

They found that STXBP1 controls the targeting of DDHD2 to the plasma membrane and the subsequent generation of saturated FFAs. 

"To determine the importance of free fatty acids in memory formation, we used mouse models where the PLA1 gene is removed," said Frederic Meunier, co-author of the study and professor at UQ.

"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," he noted. 

As the fattiest organ in the body, 60 percent of the human brain consists of lipids, while fatty acids serve as the building blocks of those lipids or fats and are instrumental in communication between nerve cells. 

Meunier believed that manipulating this new memory acquisition pathway has "exciting potential" as a treatment for neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease.