The ERK/MAP kinase cascade is important for long-term memory formation and synaptic plasticity, with a myriad of upstream signals converging upon ERK activation. Despite this convergence of signaling, neurons routinely activate appropriate biological responses to different stimuli. Scaffolding proteins represent a mechanism to achieve compartmentalization of signaling and the appropriate targeting of ERK-dependent processes. We report that kinase suppressor of Ras (KSR1) functions biochemically in the hippocampus to scaffold the components of the ERK cascade, specifically regulating the cascade when a membrane fraction of ERK is activated via a PKC-dependent pathway but not via a cAMP/PKA-dependent pathway. Specificity of KSR1-dependent signaling also extends to specific downstream targets of ERK. Behaviorally and physiologically, we found that the absence of KSR1 leads to deficits in associative learning and theta burst stimulation-induced LTP. Our report provides novel insight into the endogenous scaffolding role of KSR1 in controlling kinase activation within the nervous system.
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