Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Early calcium increase triggers the formation of olfactory long-term memory in honeybees

Emmanuel Perisse12, Valérie Raymond-Delpech13, Isabelle Néant23, Yukihisa Matsumoto1, Catherine Leclerc23, Marc Moreau23 and Jean-Christophe Sandoz13*

Author Affiliations

1 Centre de Recherches sur la Cognition Animale (CRCA), Université de Toulouse, CNRS, Toulouse, France

2 Centre de Biologie de Développement (CBD), Université de Toulouse, CNRS, Toulouse, France

3 GDR 2688 'Role of calcium in gene expression in normal and pathological conditions'

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BMC Biology 2009, 7:30  doi:10.1186/1741-7007-7-30

Published: 16 June 2009



Synaptic plasticity associated with an important wave of gene transcription and protein synthesis underlies long-term memory processes. Calcium (Ca2+) plays an important role in a variety of neuronal functions and indirect evidence suggests that it may be involved in synaptic plasticity and in the regulation of gene expression correlated to long-term memory formation. The aim of this study was to determine whether Ca2+ is necessary and sufficient for inducing long-term memory formation. A suitable model to address this question is the Pavlovian appetitive conditioning of the proboscis extension reflex in the honeybee Apis mellifera, in which animals learn to associate an odor with a sucrose reward.


By modulating the intracellular Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+]i) in the brain, we show that: (i) blocking [Ca2+]i increase during multiple-trial conditioning selectively impairs long-term memory performance; (ii) conversely, increasing [Ca2+]i during single-trial conditioning triggers long-term memory formation; and finally, (iii) as was the case for long-term memory produced by multiple-trial conditioning, enhancement of long-term memory performance induced by a [Ca2+]i increase depends on de novo protein synthesis.


Altogether our data suggest that during olfactory conditioning Ca2+ is both a necessary and a sufficient signal for the formation of protein-dependent long-term memory. Ca2+ therefore appears to act as a switch between short- and long-term storage of learned information.