Latest Issue of Science News


Protein clumps like a prion, but proves crucial for long-term memory

Study in slugs hints that some molecular 'misbehavior' is for the good

Sea slugs make memories with a twist. Screwing a normal nerve cell protein into a distorted shape helps slugs, and possibly people, lock in memories, new research shows.

Notably, the shape change also brings a shift in the protein’s behavior, leading it to form clumps. That kind of behavior is the sort seen in prions, the misshapen, infectious proteins that cause mad cow disease, scrapie and other disorders (SN: 7/31/04, p. 67). But the new study, published February 5 in Cell, shows a possible normal function for the shape-shifting, suggesting that twists and clumps don’t necessarily make prions monsters.

Note: To comment, Science News subscribing members must now establish a separate login relationship with Disqus. Click the Disqus icon below, enter your e-mail and click “forgot password” to reset your password. You may also log into Disqus using Facebook, Twitter or Google.

This article is available only to subscribing members. Join SSP today or Log in.