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1.  Expression of constitutively active erythropoietin receptor in pyramidal neurons of cortex and hippocampus boosts higher cognitive functions in mice 
BMC Biology  2011;9:27.
Erythropoietin (EPO) and its receptor (EPOR) are expressed in the developing brain and their transcription is upregulated in adult neurons and glia upon injury or neurodegeneration. We have shown neuroprotective effects and improved cognition in patients with neuropsychiatric diseases treated with EPO. However, the critical EPO targets in brain are unknown, and separation of direct and indirect effects has remained difficult, given the role of EPO in hematopoiesis and brain oxygen supply.
Here we demonstrate that mice with transgenic expression of a constitutively active EPOR isoform (cEPOR) in pyramidal neurons of cortex and hippocampus exhibit enhancement of spatial learning, cognitive flexibility, social memory, and attentional capacities, accompanied by increased impulsivity. Superior cognitive performance is associated with augmented long-term potentiation of cEPOR expressing neurons in hippocampal slices.
Active EPOR stimulates neuronal plasticity independent of any hematopoietic effects and in addition to its neuroprotective actions. This property of EPOR signaling should be exploited for defining novel strategies to therapeutically enhance cognitive performance in disease conditions.
PMCID: PMC3120735  PMID: 21527022
2.  Erythropoietin improves operant conditioning and stability of cognitive performance in mice 
BMC Biology  2009;7:37.
Executive functions, learning and attention are imperative facets of cognitive performance, affected in many neuropsychiatric disorders. Recently, we have shown that recombinant human erythropoietin improves cognitive functions in patients with chronic schizophrenia, and that it leads in healthy mice to enhanced hippocampal long-term potentiation, an electrophysiological correlate of learning and memory. To create an experimental basis for further mechanistic insight into erythropoietin-modulated cognitive processes, we employed the Five Choice Serial Reaction Time Task. This procedure allows the study of the effects of erythropoietin on discrete processes of learning and attention in a sequential fashion.
Male mice were treated for 3 weeks with erythropoietin (5,000 IU/kg) versus placebo intraperitoneally every other day, beginning at postnatal day 28. After termination of treatment, mice were started on the Five Choice Serial Reaction Time Task, with daily training and testing extending to about 3 months.
Overall, a significantly higher proportion of erythropoietin-treated mice finished the task, that is, reached the criteria of adequately reacting to a 1.0 sec flash light out of five arbitrarily appearing choices. During acquisition of this capability, that is, over almost all sequential training phases, learning readouts (magazine training, operant and discriminant learning, stability of performance) were superior in erythropoietin-treated versus control mice.
Early erythropoietin treatment leads to lasting improvement of cognitive performance in healthy mice. This finding should be exploited in novel treatment strategies for brain diseases.
PMCID: PMC2715378  PMID: 19586522
3.  Erythropoietin enhances hippocampal long-term potentiation and memory 
BMC Biology  2008;6:37.
Erythropoietin (EPO) improves cognition of human subjects in the clinical setting by as yet unknown mechanisms. We developed a mouse model of robust cognitive improvement by EPO to obtain the first clues of how EPO influences cognition, and how it may act on hippocampal neurons to modulate plasticity.
We show here that a 3-week treatment of young mice with EPO enhances long-term potentiation (LTP), a cellular correlate of learning processes in the CA1 region of the hippocampus. This treatment concomitantly alters short-term synaptic plasticity and synaptic transmission, shifting the balance of excitatory and inhibitory activity. These effects are accompanied by an improvement of hippocampus dependent memory, persisting for 3 weeks after termination of EPO injections, and are independent of changes in hematocrit. Networks of EPO-treated primary hippocampal neurons develop lower overall spiking activity but enhanced bursting in discrete neuronal assemblies. At the level of developing single neurons, EPO treatment reduces the typical increase in excitatory synaptic transmission without changing the number of synaptic boutons, consistent with prolonged functional silencing of synapses.
We conclude that EPO improves hippocampus dependent memory by modulating plasticity, synaptic connectivity and activity of memory-related neuronal networks. These mechanisms of action of EPO have to be further exploited for treating neuropsychiatric diseases.
PMCID: PMC2562991  PMID: 18782446

Results 1-3 (3)