Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

A molecular switch for memory and addiction

26.11.2010
Scientists from Germany, UK and Italy identify a molecular switch that leads to a sustained increase of calcium in nerve cells and plays a crucial role in the formation of memory and addictive behaviors.

Learning and memory formation are based on the creation of new connections between neurons in the brain. Also, behaviors such as nicotine addiction manifest themselves in long-term changes of neuronal connectivity and can – at least in this respect – be viewed as a form of learning.

A team around Pierluigi Nicotera, scientific director of the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) and collaborating laboratories at the MRC, UK and University of Modena, Italy have now discovered a molecular switch that plays a crucial role in establishing addictive behavior and memory processes. These results may contribute to new strategies for preventing memory loss or treating addictive behavior. The study is published online in EMBO Journal on November 26th.

Neuronal signals are passed from one nerve cell to the next in form of chemical compounds called neurotransmitters. This signal transmission is a first step and prerequisite for any learning process in the brain. It induces a sequence of events in the downstream cell that eventually lead to changes in neuronal connectivity and thus to memory consolidation. Also nicotine or cocaine can trigger the rearrangement of brain connections in an equivalent manner.

A first step in the induction of neuronal plasticity – the formation of new connections in the brain – involves calcium. As a response to neurotransmitters, nicotine or cocaine, calcium increases at the site of neuronal connection, the synapse. In a second step, this calcium increase will induce gene expression – the synthesis of proteins that will lead to new or reinforced synaptic connectivity. It has been generally accepted that the increase of calcium is only part of the first step in this process and does not depend on gene expression. Pierluigi Nicotera and his colleagues now challenge this idea. Their study shows that the expression of genes involved in calcium signaling is required to induce plasticity in nerve cells after repeated stimulation with nicotine or cocaine.

The scientists found that nicotine administration to mice induces the expression of a gene called type 2 ryanodine receptor (RyR2). RyR2 protein is involved in releasing calcium from a cell internal calcium store, the endoplasmic reticulum, thus leading to a long-lasting reinforcement of calcium signaling in a self-sustained manner. This sustained calcium-increase then leads to neuronal plasticity. Specifically, RyR2 is expressed in a number of brain areas associated with cognition and addiction as the cortex and ventral midbrain, suggesting that RyR2 induction plays a pivotal role in these processes. This idea was confirmed in an additional experiment, in which the authors of the study demonstrate that a reduction of RyR2-activation in living animals abolishes behavior associated with learning, memory and addiction. This shows that RyR2 is absolutely required to develop long-term changes in the brain that lead to addiction.

These results are a major step forwards in understanding the molecular processes underlying memory and addiction. On the long run, the scientists hope that these insights will contribute to the development of therapies for the treatment of addictive disorders or strategies to counteract memory loss in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease.

Original publication:
Elena Ziviani, Giordano Lippi, Daniele Bano, Eliana Munarriz, Stefania Guiducci, Michele Zoli, Kenneth W Young and Pierluigi Nicotera. Ryanodine receptor-2 upregulation and nicotine-mediated plasticity. EMBO Journal, published online on 26th November 2010.

doi: EMBOJ.2010.279

Contact:
Prof. Pierluigi Nicotera
German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE)
Ludwig-Erhard-Allee 2
53175 Bonn, Germany
Phone: + 49 228 43302-100
Email: pierluigi.nicotera@dzne.de
Dr. Katrin Weigmann
German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE)
Press and Public Relations
Phone: +49 228 43302 -263
Mobile: +49 172 2838930
Email: katrin.weigmann@dzne.de

Daniel Bayer | idw
Further information:
http://www.dzne.de

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Are there sustainable solutions in dealing with dwindling phosphorus resources?
16.10.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Nutzierbiologie (FBN)

nachricht Strange undertakings: ant queens bury dead to prevent disease
13.10.2017 | Institute of Science and Technology Austria

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

Im Focus: New nanomaterial can extract hydrogen fuel from seawater

Hybrid material converts more sunlight and can weather seawater's harsh conditions

It's possible to produce hydrogen to power fuel cells by extracting the gas from seawater, but the electricity required to do it makes the process costly. UCF...

Im Focus: Small collisions make big impact on Mercury's thin atmosphere

Mercury, our smallest planetary neighbor, has very little to call an atmosphere, but it does have a strange weather pattern: morning micro-meteor showers.

Recent modeling along with previously published results from NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft -- short for Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

‘Find the Lady’ in the quantum world

17.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A single photon reveals quantum entanglement of 16 million atoms

16.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>