Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Blame it on the astrocytes

11.07.2014

In the brains of all vertebrates, information is transmitted through synapses, a mechanism that allows an electric or chemical signal to be passed from one brain cell to another.

Chemical synapses, which are the most abundant type of synapse, can be either excitatory or inhibitory. Synapse formation is crucial for learning, memory, perception and cognition, and the balance between excitatory and inhibitory synapses critical for brain function.

For instance, every time we learn something, the new information is transformed into memory through synaptic plasticity, a process in which synapses are strengthened and become more responsive to different stimuli or environmental cues. Synapses may change their shape or function in a matter of seconds or over an entire lifetime. In humans, a number of disorders are associated with dysfunctional synapses, including autism, epilepsy, substance abuse and depression.

Astrocytes, named for their star-like shape, are ubiquitous brain cells known for regulating excitatory synapse formation through cells. Recent studies have shown that astrocytes also play a role in forming inhibitory synapses, but the key players and underlying mechanisms have remained unknown until now.

A new study just published in the journal Glia and available online on July 11th, details the newly discovered mechanism by which astrocytes are involved in inhibitory synapse formation and presents strong evidence that Transforming Growth Factor Beta 1 (TGF β1), a protein produced by many cell types (including astrocytes) is a key player in this process. The team led by Flávia Gomes of the Rio de Janeiro Institute of Biomedical Sciences at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro investigated the process in both mouse and human tissues, first in test tubes, then in living brain cells.

Previous evidence has shown that TGF β1, a molecule associated with essential functions in nervous system development and repair, modulates other components responsible for normal brain function. In this study, the authors were able to show that TGF β1 triggers N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDA), a molecule controlling memory formation and maintenance through synaptic plasticity.

In the study, the group also shows that TGF β1-induction of inhibitory synapses depends on activation of another molecule - Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMK2)-, which works as a mediator for learning and memory. "Our study is the first to associate this complex pathway of molecules, of which TGF β1 seems to be a key player, to astrocytes' ability to modulate inhibitory synapses", says Flávia Gomes.

The idea that the balance between excitatory and inhibitory inputs depends on astrocyte signals gains strong support with this new study and suggests a pivotal role for astrocytes in the development of neurological disorders involving impaired inhibitory synapse transmission. Knowing the players and mechanisms underlying inhibitory synapses may improve our understanding of synaptic plasticity and cognitive processes and may help develop new drugs for treating these diseases.

###

The paper entitled "Astrocyte Transforming Growth Factor Beta 1 Promotes Inhibitory Synapse Formation Via Cam Kinase II Signaling" can be found online at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1002/(ISSN)1098-1136

The research was supported by grants from the Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq), the Institute of Glia (iGLIA/CNPq), the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES), and the Fundação Carlos Chagas Filho de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (FAPERJ).

Flávia Gomes | Eurek Alert!

Further reports about: CNPq Synapse TGF Transforming astrocytes disorders excitatory mechanisms plasticity synapses synaptic

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Faster detection of pathogens in the lungs
24.06.2016 | Universität Zürich

nachricht How yeast cells regulate their fat balance
23.06.2016 | Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: First experimental quantum simulation of particle physics phenomena

Physicists in Innsbruck have realized the first quantum simulation of lattice gauge theories, building a bridge between high-energy theory and atomic physics. In the journal Nature, Rainer Blatt‘s and Peter Zoller’s research teams describe how they simulated the creation of elementary particle pairs out of the vacuum by using a quantum computer.

Elementary particles are the fundamental buildings blocks of matter, and their properties are described by the Standard Model of particle physics. The...

Im Focus: Is There Life On Mars?

Survivalist back from Space - 18 months on the outer skin of the ISS

A year and a half on the outer wall of the International Space Station ISS in altitude of 400 kilometers is a real challenge. Whether a primordial bacterium...

Im Focus: CWRU physicists deploy magnetic vortex to control electron spin

Potential technology for quantum computing, keener sensors

Researchers at Case Western Reserve University have developed a way to swiftly and precisely control electron spins at room temperature.

Im Focus: Physicists measured something new in the radioactive decay of neutrons

The experiment inspired theorists; future ones could reveal new physics

A physics experiment performed at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has enhanced scientists' understanding of how free neutrons decay...

Im Focus: Discovery of gold nanocluster 'double' hints at other shape changing particles

New analysis approach brings two unique atomic structures into focus

Chemically the same, graphite and diamonds are as physically distinct as two minerals can be, one opaque and soft, the other translucent and hard. What makes...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ERES 2016: The largest conference in the European real estate industry

09.06.2016 | Event News

Networking 4.0: International Laser Technology Congress AKL’16 Shows New Ways of Cooperations

24.05.2016 | Event News

Challenges of rural labor markets

20.05.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Nanoscientists develop the 'ultimate discovery tool'

24.06.2016 | Materials Sciences

Russian physicists create a high-precision 'quantum ruler'

24.06.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

Hubble confirms new dark spot on Neptune

24.06.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>