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Identification and localization of the Protein Kinase C requirement for operant self-learning in Dro
AuthorJulien Colomb and Björn Brembs
Author email bjoern©
Author website
DescriptionFor more than 70 years, scholars have debated the similarities between classical (Pavlovian) and operant (instrumental) conditioning. Already the earliest protagonists in this debate realized that operant learning always contains stimulus component which could be learned by a classical learning mechanism, preventing a thorough study of any dedicated operant learning mechanism. Only recent technical and conceptual advances allowed the removal of the stimulus-component in operant learning. These recent experiments showed that there are indeed two genetically distinct learning processes engaged in operant learning. World-learning (the process assigning value to sensory stimuli) and self-learning (the process assigning value to a specific action or movement) could be distinguished in operant learning experiments in Aplysia, flies, songbirds and mice. This concept is analogous to other related dichotomies including declarative vs procedural learning, allocentric vs egocentric learning strategies, external cues learning vs self-motion cues learning. Using the Drosophila torque meter apparatus, the two components can be taken apart and studied independently. Work in several model systems independently revealed one necessary component of the apparently evolutionarily conserved biochemical pathway underlying self-learning, protein kinase C (PKC). Experiments in flies, Aplysia and mice showed that it is possible to prevent self-learning by inhibiting PKC-function. We used temperature controlled inhibition of PKC by expressing an inhibitory peptide, PKCi, in different clusters of neurons, using the UAS/Gal4 TARGET system. The data suggest that PKCi expression in motorneurons is sufficient for preventing self-learning formation. We also used an RNAi-based approach to identify which of the five PKC genes in Drosophila is involved in self-learning. Here the results strongly imply the conventional PKC 53e in operant self-learning. These results not only further corroborate the distinction between self-learning and other forms of learning, they also provide a first glimpse into the mechanisms of a novel learning process. Due to the evolutionary conservation of the self-learning processes, our results in flies may have implications for disorders in humans related to motor control such as verbal dyspraxia or addiction.
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