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Keywords:

  • explorative behaviour;
  • hyperactivity;
  • locomotor activity;
  • memory;
  • Rab3a;
  • synaptic vesicle protein

Abstract

Rab proteins are small GTPases involved in intracellular trafficking. Among the 60 different Rab proteins described in mammals, Rab3a is the most abundant in brain, where it is involved in synaptic vesicle fusion and neurotransmitter release. Rab3a constitutive knockout mice (Rab3a−/−) are characterized by deficient short- and long-term synaptic plasticity in the mossy fiber pathway and altered circadian motor activity, while no effects on spatial learning have been reported so far for these mice. The goals of this study were to analyse possible behavioral consequences of the lack of synaptic plasticity in the mossy fiber pathway using a broad battery of sensitive behavioral measures that has been used previously to analyse the behavior of Gdi1 mice lacking a protein thought to regulate Rab3a. Rab3a−/− mice showed normal acquisition but moderately impaired platform reversal learning in the water maze including reference memory and episodic-like memory tasks. A mild deficit in spatial working memory was also observed when tested in the radial maze. Analysis of explorative behavior revealed increased locomotor activity and enhanced exploratory activity in open field, O-maze, dark/light box and novel object tests. Spontaneous activity in normal home cage settings was unaffected but Rab3a−/− mice showed increased motor activity when the home cage was equipped with a wheel. No differences were found for delayed and trace fear conditioning or for conditioned taste aversion learning. Congruent with earlier data, these results suggest that Rab3a-dependent synaptic plasticity might play a specific role in the reactivity to novel stimuli and behavioral stability rather than being involved in memory processing. On the other hand, the phenotypic changes in the Rab3a−/− mice bore no relation to the behavioral changes as observed in the Gdi1 mice. Such divergence in phenotypes implies that the putative synaptic interaction between Gdi1 and Rab3a should be reconsidered and re-analysed.