Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Master of Arts (MA)


Memory formation is an essential part of everyday life. Neuronal communication is thought to be a key driver behind memory formation. There are two heavily studied methods of neuronal communication: chemical (neurotransmitter-mediated) and electrical (physically attached). When issues arise environmentally or genetically, people can experience one of many devastating memory disorders i.e. Alzheimer’s disease and other Dementias. Due to their prevalence, the treatments for disorders that hinder memory formation are a high priority for pharmaceutical companies. Currently, many of the treatments available focus on neurotransmitters or neuronal activity, and scientists are far from a cure. However, there may be an undiscovered target for the treatment of these disorders. Recently, an essential memory protein known as the Activity-Regulated Cytoskeleton-associated (Arc) protein was shown to have evolved from the same parent as retroviruses(1). Along this viral trend, purified Arc protein spontaneously aggregates into capsid-like structures(2, 3); this capsid structure and evolutionary history were expanded on by recording Arc’s transfer of mRNA from one neuron into another(3). Two other families of endogenous neuronal capsid genes were identified to form capsids, and a gene, Peg10, exhibited RNA transfer between cells(4). Taken together, this information creates the potential for an additional neuronal communication paradigm. If proved true, this would open a new target for therapeutics to treat widespread memory disorders. Our goal is to test the viral nature of the essential memory protein, Arc. We will examine its viral nature by measuring Arc’s release from neuronal and non-neuronal cells. Additionally, we will utilize HIV’s well-understood capsid assembly and infectivity to test the viral nature of endogenous capsid genes. By replacing the capsid gene of HIV-1 with the putative CA domains of neuronal CA genes we will test their ability to infect cells. Thus investigating the infectious nature of endogenous neuronal capsid genes.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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