Methamphetamine Inhibits Long-Term Memory Acquisition and Synaptic Plasticity by Evoking Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress

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Methamphetamine (MA), an illicit drug abused worldwide, leads to cognitive impairment and memory loss. However, the detailed mechanisms of MA-induced neurologic impairment are still unclear. The present study aimed to investigate the mechanisms of MA-induced inhibition of memory acquisition from the perspective of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress. ER stress, caused by the accumulation of wrongly folded proteins in the ER, is important for new protein synthesis, which further influence the formation of long-term memory. A subacute MA poisoning model of mice was established and several behavioral experiments were performed, including elevated plus maze, Morris water maze, electro-stimulus Y-maze, and novel object recognition tasks. The present results suggested that 4 days exposure to MA induced significant memory loss. Whereas, this damage to memory formation could be protected when mice were pre-treated with ER stress inhibitor, tauroursodeoxycholic acid (TUDCA). The results of Western blotting showed that subacute exposure to MA increased the expression levels of ER stress marker proteins, such as binding immunoglobulin protein, phosphorylated eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2α, cyclic AMP-dependent transcription factor (ATF)-4, ATF-6, and CCAAT-enhancer binding protein homologous protein. Meanwhile, the enhanced expression levels of these proteins were reversed by TUDCA, indicating that MA administration induced memory loss by evoking ER stress in the hippocampus. We also found that MA inhibited the induction of long-term potentiation (LTP) in the hippocampus. Nevertheless, LTP could be induced when mice were pre-treated with TUDCA. In conclusion, MA inhibited long-term memory acquisition and synaptic plasticity via ER stress.

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