Mitochondrial outer membrane permeability is conferred by a family of porin proteins. Mitochondrial porins conduct small molecules and constitute one component of the permeability transition pore that opens in response to apoptotic signals. Because mitochondrial porins have significant roles in diverse cellular processes including regulation of mitochondrial ATP and calcium flux, we sought to determine their importance in learning and synaptic plasticity in mice. We show that fear conditioning and spatial learning are disrupted in porin-deficient mice. Electrophysiological recordings of porin-deficient hippocampal slices reveal deficits in long and short term synaptic plasticity. Inhibition of the mitochondrial permeability transition pore by cyclosporin A in wild-type hippocampal slices reproduces the electrophysiological phenotype of porin-deficient mice. These results demonstrate a dynamic functional role for mitochondrial porins and the permeability transition pore in learning and synaptic plasticity.
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