Neuron-specific Sumo1-3 knockdown in mice impairs episodic and fear memories.


BACKGROUND:Growing evidence suggests that small ubiquitin-like modifier (SUMO) conjugation plays a key role in brain plasticity by modulating activity-dependent synaptic transmission. However, these observations are based largely on cell culture experiments. We hypothesized that episodic and fear memories would be affected by silencing SUMO1-3 expression. METHODS:To investigate the role of SUMO conjugation in neuronal functioning in vivo, we generated a novel Sumo transgenic mouse model in which a Thy1 promoter drives expression of 3 distinct microRNAs to silence Sumo1-3 expression, specifically in neurons. Wild-type and Sumo1-3 knockdown mice were subjected to a battery of behavioural tests to elucidate whether Sumoylation is involved in episodic and emotional memory. RESULTS:Expression of Sumo1-3 microRNAs and the corresponding silencing of Sumo expression were particularly pronounced in hippocampal, amygdala and layer V cerebral cortex neurons. The Sumo knockdown mice displayed anxiety-like responses and were impaired in episodic memory processes, contextual and cued fear conditioning and fear-potentiated startle. LIMITATIONS:Since expression of Sumo1-3 was silenced in this mouse model, we need to verify in future studies which of the SUMO paralogues play the pivotal role in episodic and emotional memory. CONCLUSION:Our results indicate that a functional SUMO conjugation pathway is essential for emotionality and cognition. This novel Sumo knockdown mouse model and the technology used in generating this mutant may help to reveal novel mechanisms that underlie a variety of neuropsychiatric conditions associated with anxiety and impairment of episodic and emotional memory.





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Publication Info

Wang, Liangli, Ramona M Rodriguiz, William C Wetsel, Huaxin Sheng, Shengli Zhao, Xiaozhi Liu, Wulf Paschen, Wei Yang, et al. (2014). Neuron-specific Sumo1-3 knockdown in mice impairs episodic and fear memories. Journal of psychiatry & neuroscience : JPN, 39(4). pp. 259–266. 10.1503/jpn.130148 Retrieved from

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William Christopher Wetsel

Associate Professor in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Last Updated: 27 October 2020

My laboratory uses genetically-modified mice to study the roles that certain genes and gene products play in the presentation of abnormal neuroendocrine, neurological, and psychiatric responses. Traditionally, the identification of neuroendocrine dysfunction has involved biochemical analyses of hormonal responses, those for neurological disorders have relied upon behavioral and postmortem analyses, and those for psychiatric conditions have depended upon phenomenology.  The use of genetic technologies has allowed specific genes in selected cells and in neural pathways to be related to certain molecular, biochemical, cellular, physiological, and behavioral dysfunctions. As the Director of the Mouse Behavioral and Neuroendocrine Analysis Core Facility at Duke University (, we have phenotyped many different lines of inbred and mutant mice for my own work as well as for investigators at Duke and at other research institutions. As a consequence, we have helped to develop many different mouse genetic models of neuroendocrine and neuropsychiatric illness. We are working also with academic medicinal chemists and/or certain pharmacological/biotechnological companies to identify novel compounds that will ameliorate abnormal responses in various mutant mouse models. Some of these preclinical studies have formed a basis for clinical trials in humans.


Huaxin Sheng

Associate Professor in Anesthesiology

We have successfully developed various rodent models of brain and spinal cord injuries in our lab, such as focal cerebral ischemia, global cerebral ischemia, head trauma, subarachnoid hemorrhage, intracerebral hemorrhage, spinal cord ischemia and compression injury. We also established cardiac arrest and hemorrhagic shock models for studying multiple organ dysfunction.  Our current studies focus on two projects. One is to examine the efficacy of catalytic antioxidant in treating cerebral ischemia and the other is to examine the efficacy of post-conditioning on outcome of subarachnoid hemorrhage induced cognitive dysfunction.


Wei Yang

Professor in Anesthesiology

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