Long-term memory for sensitization of the gill- and siphon-withdrawal reflexes in Aplysia californica requires RNA and protein synthesis. These long-term behavioral changes are accompanied by long-term facilitation of the synaptic connections between the gill and siphon sensory and motor neurons, which are similarly dependent on transcription and translation. In addition to showing an increase in over-all protein synthesis, long-term facilitation is associated with changes in the expression of specific early, intermediate, and late proteins, and with the growth of new synaptic connections between the sensory and motor neurons of the reflex. We previously focused on early proteins and have identified four proteins as members of the immunoglobulin family of cell adhesion molecules related to NCAM and fasciclin II. We have now cloned the cDNA corresponding to one of the late proteins, and identified it as the Aplysia homolog of BiP, an ER resident protein involved in the folding and assembly of secretory and membrane proteins. Behavioral training increases the steady-state level of BiP mRNA in the sensory neurons. The increase in the synthesis of BiP protein is first detected 3 h after the onset of facilitation, when the increase in overall protein synthesis reaches its peak and the formation of new synaptic terminals becomes apparent. These findings suggest that the chaperon function of BiP might serve to fold proteins and assemble protein complexes necessary for the structural changes characteristic of long-term memory.

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