Enhanced retrieval of taste associative memory by chemogenetic activation of locus coeruleus norepinephrine neurons

Ryoji Fukabori, Yoshio Iguchi, Shigeki Kato, Kazumi Takahashi, Satoshi Eifuku, Shingo Tsuji, Akihiro Hazama, Motokazu Uchigashima, Masahiko Watanabe, Hiroshi Mizuma, Yilong Cui, Hirotaka Onoe, Keigo Hikishima, Yasunobu Yasoshima, Makoto Osanai, Ryo Inagaki, Kohji Fukunaga, Takuma Nishijo, Toshihiko Momiyama, Richard BentonKazuto Kobayashi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The ability of animals to retrieve memories stored in response to the environment is essential for behavioral adaptation. Norepinephrine (NE)-containing neurons in the brain play a key role in the modulation of synaptic plasticity underlying various processes of memory formation. However, the role of the central NE system in memory retrieval remains unclear. Here, we developed a novel chemogenetic activation strategy exploiting insect olfactory ionotropic receptors (IRs), termed “IR-mediated neuronal activation,” and used it for selective stimulation of NE neurons in the locus coeruleus (LC). Drosophila melanogaster IR84a and IR8a subunits were expressed in LC NE neurons in transgenic mice. Application of phenylacetic acid (a specific ligand for the IR84a/IR8a complex) at appropriate doses induced excitatory responses of NE neurons expressing the receptors in both slice preparations and in vivo electrophysiological conditions, resulting in a marked increase of NE release in the LC nerve terminal regions (male and female). Ligand-induced activation of LC NE neurons enhanced the retrieval process of conditioned taste aversion without affecting taste sensitivity, general arousal state, and locomotor activity. This enhancing effect on taste memory retrieval was mediated, in part, through a1- and b-adrenergic receptors in the basolateral nucleus of the amygdala (BLA; male). Pharmacological inhibition of LC NE neurons confirmed the facilitative role of these neurons in memory retrieval via adrenergic receptors in the BLA (male). Our findings indicate that the LC NE system, through projections to the BLA, controls the retrieval process of taste associative memory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8367-8385
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number43
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Oct 21


  • Basolateral amygdala
  • Chemogenetic tool
  • Conditioned taste aversion
  • Ionotropic receptor
  • Locus coeruleus
  • Memory retrieval

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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