An Adaptive Role for DNA Double-Strand Breaks in Hippocampus-Dependent Learning and Memory

Sydney Weber Boutros, Vivek K. Unni, Jacob Raber

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs), classified as the most harmful type of DNA damage based on the complexity of repair, lead to apoptosis or tumorigenesis. In aging, DNA damage increases and DNA repair decreases. This is exacerbated in disease, as post-mortem tissue from patients diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or Alzheimer’s disease (AD) show increased DSBs. A novel role for DSBs in immediate early gene (IEG) expression, learning, and memory has been suggested. Inducing neuronal activity leads to increases in DSBs and upregulation of IEGs, while increasing DSBs and inhibiting DSB repair impairs long-term memory and alters IEG expression. Consistent with this pattern, mice carrying dominant AD mutations have increased baseline DSBs, and impaired DSB repair is observed. These data suggest an adaptive role for DSBs in the central nervous system and dysregulation of DSBs and/or repair might drive age-related cognitive decline (ACD), MCI, and AD. In this review, we discuss the adaptive role of DSBs in hippocampus-dependent learning, memory, and IEG expression. We summarize IEGs, the history of DSBs, and DSBs in synaptic plasticity, aging, and AD. DSBs likely have adaptive functions in the brain, and even subtle alterations in their formation and repair could alter IEGs, learning, and memory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number8352
JournalInternational journal of molecular sciences
Issue number15
StatePublished - Aug 2022


  • DNA damage
  • aging
  • amifostine
  • cognition
  • double-strand brakes
  • etoposide
  • hippocampus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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