Plasma membrane ordering agent pluronic F-68 (PF-68) reduces neurotransmitter uptake and release and produces learning and memory deficits in rats

Mark S.F. Clarke, Mark A. Prendergast, Alvin V. Terry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


A substantial body of evidence indicates that aged-related changes in the fluidity and lipid composition of the plasma membrane contribute to cellular dysfunction in humans and other mammalian species. In the CNS, reductions in neuronal plasma membrane order (PMO) (i.e., increased plasma membrane fluidity) have been attributed to age as well as the presence of the β-amyloid peptide-25-35, known to play an important role in the neuropathology of Alzheimer's disease (AD). These PMO increases may influence neurotransmitter synthesis, receptor binding, and second messenger systems as well as signal transduction pathways. The effects of neuronal PMO on learning and memory processes have not been adequately investigated, however. Based on the hypothesis that an increase in PMO may alter a number of aspects of synaptic transmission, we investigated several neurochemical and behavioral effects of the membrane ordering agent, PF-68. In cell culture, PF-68 (nmoles/mg SDS extractable protein) reduced [3H]norepinephrine (NE) uptake into differentiated PC-12 cells as well as reduced nicotine stimulated [3H]NE release. The compound (800-2400 μg/kg, i.p., resulting in nmoles/mg SDS extractable protein in the brain) decreased step-through latencies and increased the frequencies of crossing into the unsafe side of the chamber in inhibitory avoidance training. In the Morris water maze, PF-68 increased the latencies and swim distances required to locate a hidden platform and reduced the time spent and distance swam in the previous target quadrant during transfer (probe) trials. PF-68 did not impair performance of a well-learned working memory task, the rat delayed stimulus discrimination task (DSDT), however. Studies with 14C-labeled PF-68 indicated that significant (pmoles/mg wet tissue) levels of the compound entered the brain from peripheral (i.p.) injection. No PF-68 related changes were observed in swim speeds or in visual acuity tests in water maze experiments, rotorod performance, or in tests of general locomotor activity. Furthermore, latencies to select a lever in the DSDT were not affected. These results suggest that PF-68 induced deficits in learning and memory without confounding peripheral motor, sensory, or motivational effects at the tested doses. Furthermore, none of the doses induced a conditioned taste aversion to a novel 0.1% saccharin solution indicating a lack of nausea or gastrointestinal malaise induced by the compound. The data indicate that increases in neuronal plasma membrane order may have significant effects on neurotransmitter function as well as learning and memory processes. Furthermore, compounds such as PF-68 may also offer novel tools for studying the role of neuronal PMO in mnemonic processes and changes in PMO resulting from age-related disorders such as AD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)634-649
Number of pages16
JournalLearning and Memory
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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