Dentate granule cell recruitment of feedforward inhibition governs engram maintenance and remote memory generalization
Published: 03-12-2018 In Publication
Memories become less precise and generalized over time as memory traces reorganize in hippocampal–cortical networks. Increased time-dependent loss of memory precision is characterized by an overgeneralization of fear in individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or age-related cognitive impairments. In the hippocampal dentate gyrus (DG), memories are thought to be encoded by so-called 'engram-bearing' dentate granule cells (eDGCs). Here we show, using rodents, that contextual fear conditioning increases connectivity between eDGCs and inhibitory interneurons (INs) in the downstream hippocampal CA3 region. We identify actin-binding LIM protein 3 (ABLIM3) as a mossy-fiber-terminal-localized cytoskeletal factor whose levels decrease after learning. Downregulation of ABLIM3 expression in DGCs was sufficient to increase connectivity with CA3 stratum lucidum INs (SLINs), promote parvalbumin (PV)-expressing SLIN activation, enhance feedforward inhibition onto CA3 and maintain a fear memory engram in the DG over time. Furthermore, downregulation of ABLIM3 expression in DGCs conferred conditioned context-specific reactivation of memory traces in hippocampal–cortical and amygdalar networks and decreased fear memory generalization at remote (i.e., distal) time points. Consistent with the observation of age-related hyperactivity of CA3, learning failed to increase DGC–SLIN connectivity in 17-month-old mice, whereas downregulation of ABLIM3 expression was sufficient to restore DGC–SLIN connectivity, increase PV+ SLIN activation and improve the precision of remote memories. These studies exemplify a connectivity-based strategy that targets a molecular brake of feedforward inhibition in DG–CA3 and may be harnessed to decrease time-dependent memory generalization in individuals with PTSD and improve memory precision in aging individuals.