Spatial memory formation is a dynamic process requiring a series of cellular and molecular steps, such as gene expression and protein translation, leading to morphological changes that have been envisaged as the structural bases for the engram. Despite the role suggested for medial temporal lobe plasticity in spatial memory, recent behavioral observations implicate specific components of the striatal complex in spatial information processing. However, the potential occurrence of neural plasticity within this structure after spatial learning has never been investigated. In this study we demonstrate that blockade of cAMP response element binding protein-induced transcription or inhibition of protein synthesis or extracellular proteolytic activity in the ventral striatum impairs long-term spatial memory. These findings demonstrate that, in the ventral striatum, similarly to what happens in the hippocampus, several key molecular events crucial for the expression of neural plasticity are required in the early stages of spatial memory formation.
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