Similar to other invertebrate and vertebrate animals, cAMP-dependent signaling cascades are key components of long-term memory (LTM) formation in the snail Lymnaea stagnalis, an established experimental model for studying evolutionarily conserved molecular mechanisms of long-term associative memory. Although a great deal is already known about the signaling cascades activated by cAMP, the molecules involved in the learning-induced activation of adenylate cyclase (AC) in Lymnaea remained unknown. Using matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectroscopy in combination with biochemical and immunohistochemical methods, recently we have obtained evidence for the existence of a Lymnaea homolog of the vertebrate pituitary adenylate cyclaseactivating polypeptide (PACAP) and for the AC-activating effect of PACAP in the Lymnaea nervous system. Here we first tested the hypothesis that PACAP plays an important role in the formation of robust LTM after single-trial classical food-reward conditioning. Application of the PACAP receptor antagonist PACAP6-38 around the time of single-trial training with amyl acetate and sucrose blocked associative LTM, suggesting that in this "strong" food-reward conditioning paradigm the activation of AC by PACAP was necessary for LTM to form. We found that in a "weak" multitrial food-reward conditioning paradigm, lip touch paired with sucrose, memory formation was also dependent on PACAP. Significantly, systemic application of PACAP at the beginning of multitrial tactile conditioning accelerated the formation of transcription-dependent memory. Our findings provide the first evidence to show that in the same nervous system PACAP is both necessary and instructive for fast and robust memory formation after reward classical conditioning.
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