Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

How the brain stays receptive: researchers examine the role of channel protein in learning

09.01.2013
PLoS ONE: Pannexin1 is critical for memory and orientation

The channel protein Pannexin1 keeps nerve cells flexible and thus the brain receptive for new knowledge. Together with colleagues from Canada and the U.S., researchers at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum led by the junior professor Dr. Nora Prochnow from the Department of Molecular Brain Research describe these results in PLoS ONE.


Micrograph of the hippocampus: The blue curves show the long-term potentiation in mice with (left) and without Pannexin1 (right). Brains of animals without the channel protein respond especially sensitively to small stimuli, as the big difference between the light and dark blue curve shows. The data is based on original measurements of the study.
Image: Nora Prochnow

In the study, mice comprising no Pannexin1 in memory-related brain structures displayed symptoms similar to autism. Their nerve cells lacked synaptic plasticity, i.e. the ability to form new synaptic contacts or give up old contacts based on the level of usage.

Pannexins are abundant in the central nervous system of vertebrates

Pannexins traverse the cell membrane of vertebrate animals and form large pored channels. They are permeable for certain signalling molecules, such as the energy storage molecule ATP (adenosine triphosphate). The best known representative is Pannexin1, which occurs in abundance in the brain and spinal cord and among others in the hippocampus - a brain structure that is critical for long-term memory. Malfunctions of the pannexins play a role in the development of epilepsy and strokes.

No more scope in long-term potentiation

The research team studied mice in which the gene for Pannexin1 was lacking. Using cell recordings carried out on isolated brain sections, they analysed the long-term potentiation in the hippocampus. Long-term potentiation usually occurs when new memory content is built - the contacts between nerve cells are strengthened; they communicate more effectively with each other. In mice without Pannexin1, the long-term potentiation occurred earlier and was more prolonged than in mice with Pannexin1. “It looks at first glance like a gain in long-term memory”, says Nora Prochnow. “But precise analysis shows that there was no more scope for upward development.” Due to the lack of Pannexin1, the cell communication in general was increased to such an extent that a further increase through the learning of new knowledge was no longer possible. The synaptic plasticity was thus extremely restricted. “The plasticity is essential for learning processes in the brain”, Nora Prochnow explains. “It helps you to organise, keep or even to forget contents in a positive sense, to gain room for new inputs.”

Autistic-like behaviour without Pannexin1

The absence of Pannexin1 also had an impact on behaviour: when solving simple problems, the animals were quickly overwhelmed in terms of content. Their spatial orientation was limited, their attention impaired and an increased probability for seizure generation occurred. “The behavioural patterns are reminiscent of autism. We should therefore consider the Pannexin1 channel more closely with regard to the treatment of such diseases”, says the neurobiologist from Bochum.

Theory: feedback regulation gets out of hand without Pannexin1

According to the scientists’ theory, nerve cells lack a feedback mechanism without Pannexin1. Normally the channel protein releases ATP, which binds to specific receptors and thus reduces the release of the neurotransmitter glutamate. Without Pannexin1 more glutamate is released, which leads to increased long-term potentiation. This causes the cell to lose its dynamic equilibrium, which is needed for an efficient learning process.

Bibliographic record

N. Prochnow, A. Abdulazim, S. Kurtenbach, V. Wildförster, G. Dvoriantchikova , J. Hanske, E. Petrasch-Parwez, V.I. Shestopalov, R. Dermietzel, D. Manahan-Vaughan, G. Zoidl (2012): Pannexin1 stabilizes synaptic plasticity and is needed for learning, PLoS ONE , DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0051767

Further information

Prof. Dr. Nora Prochnow, Department of Molecular Brain Research, Faculty of Medicine, 44780 Bochum, Germany, Tel. +49/234/32-24406, E-Mail: Nora.Prochnow@ruhr-uni-bochum.de

Editor: Dr. Julia Weiler

Dr. Josef König | idw
Further information:
http://www.ruhr-uni-bochum.de

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Bacteria as pacemaker for the intestine
22.11.2017 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

nachricht Researchers identify how bacterium survives in oxygen-poor environments
22.11.2017 | Columbia University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Nanoparticles help with malaria diagnosis – new rapid test in development

The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.

Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Corporate coworking as a driver of innovation

22.11.2017 | Business and Finance

PPPL scientists deliver new high-resolution diagnostic to national laser facility

22.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Quantum optics allows us to abandon expensive lasers in spectroscopy

22.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>