Forebrain-specific knockout of B-raf kinase leads to deficits in hippocampal long-term potentiation, learning, and memory.
Raf kinases are downstream effectors of Ras and upstream activators of the MEK-ERK cascade. Ras and MEK-ERK signaling play roles in learning and memory (L&M) and neural plasticity, but the roles of Raf kinases in L&M and plasticity are unclear. Among Raf isoforms, B-raf is preferentially expressed in the brain. To determine whether B-raf has a role in synaptic plasticity and L&M, we used the Cre-LoxP gene targeting system to derive forebrain excitatory neuron B-raf knockout mice. This conditional knockout resulted in deficits in ERK activation and hippocampal long-term potentiation (LTP) and impairments in hippocampus-dependent L&M, including spatial learning and contextual discrimination. Despite the widespread expression of B-raf, this mutation did not disrupt other forms of L&M, such as cued fear conditioning and conditioned taste aversion. Our findings demonstrate that B-raf plays a role in hippocampal ERK activation, synaptic plasticity, and L&M.