Physiology and Biophysics

December 19, 2017

Jason Shepherd (U of Utah): Viral origins of Memory

“Viral origins of Memory”

Jason D. Shepherd, Ph.D.

Jon M. Huntsman Presidential Endowed Chair
Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Ben Barres Investigator
Associate Professor
Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy
www.shepherdlab.org  

Host: Adrienne Fairhall

Seminar Abstract:
The neuronal gene Arc is essential for long-lasting information storage in the mammalian brain, mediates various forms of synaptic plasticity, including experience-dependent plasticity in the visual cortex. We recently discovered that Arc self-assembles into virus-like capsids that encapsulate RNA. Endogenous Arc protein is released from neurons in extracellular vesicles that mediate the transfer of Arc mRNA into new target cells. Evolutionary analysis indicates that Arc is derived from a vertebrate lineage of Ty3/gypsy retrotransposons, which are also ancestral to retroviruses such as HIV. These findings suggest that Gag retroelements have been repurposed during evolution to mediate intercellular communication in the nervous system and implies that information storage may require non cell-autonomous cell-to-cell signaling.