Mrj is a chaperone of the Hsp40 family that regulates Orb2 oligomerization and long-term memory in Drosophila

Orb2 the Drosophila homolog of cytoplasmic polyadenylation element binding (CPEB) protein forms prion-like oligomers. These oligomers consist of Orb2A and Orb2B isoforms and their formation is dependent on the oligomerization of the Orb2A isoform. Drosophila with a mutation diminishing Orb2A’s prion-like oligomerization forms long-term memory but fails to maintain it over time. Since this prion-like oligomerization of Orb2A plays a crucial role in the maintenance of memory, here, we aim to find what regulates this oligomerization. In an immunoprecipitation-based screen, we identify interactors of Orb2A in the Hsp40 and Hsp70 families of proteins. Among these, we find an Hsp40 family protein Mrj as a regulator of the conversion of Orb2A to its prion-like form. Mrj interacts with Hsp70 proteins and acts as a chaperone by interfering with the aggregation of pathogenic Huntingtin. Unlike its mammalian homolog, we find Drosophila Mrj is neither an essential gene nor causes any gross neurodevelopmental defect. We observe a loss of Mrj results in a reduction in Orb2 oligomers. Further, Mrj knockout exhibits a deficit in long-term memory and our observations suggest Mrj is needed in mushroom body neurons for the regulation of long-term memory. Our work implicates a chaperone Mrj in mechanisms of memory regulation through controlling the oligomerization of Orb2A and its association with the translating ribosomes.

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