The discovery -- captured with fluorescent imaging of excitatory neurons harvested from rat pups shortly after birth and studied in culture as they continued to develop -- is described in a paper placed online May 18 ahead of formal publication in the open-access journal Neural Development.
"We've caught two neuronal cells in the act of forming a synapse," said principle investigator Philip Washbourne, professor of biology at the University of Oregon. He describes the cell-adhesion neuroligin proteins on the membranes of receptor neurons as "molecular Velcro."
The research team of six UO and University of California, Davis, scientists found one of many finger-like filopodia, or spines, that reach out from one neuron is nabbed by neuroligin molecules on the membrane of another neuron. In turn, neuroligins recruit at least two other key proteins (PSD-95 and NMDA receptors) to begin building a scaffold to hold the synapse components in place. The moment of locking is captured in a video (link below) that will appear with the paper's final version at the journal's Web site.
Two neuroligin family members (3 and 4) have been linked to autism in the last decade.
"Chemical synapses are the primary means for transmitting information from one neuron to the next," said Washbourne, who is a member of the UO's Institute of Neuroscience. "Synapses are initially formed during development of the nervous system, and formation of appropriate synapses is crucial for establishing neuronal circuits that underlie behavior and cognition. Minor irregularities can lead to developmental disorders such as autism and mental retardation, and they may contribute to psychological disorders."
The findings, he added, reflect a clearer understanding of how synapses form, providing a roadmap for research that someday may lead to new therapies or a cure for autism, a brain development disorder that affects a person's social and communication abilities. The disorder affects 1 in every 150 American children, according to the Autism Society of America.
The new window opened by Washbourne's team captures the essence of synapse development, which occurs over and over among the estimated 100 billion neurons that make some 100 trillion synapses in a single human being. That leaves a lot of room for errors in the DNA-driven instructions for synthesizing molecules responsible for synapse formation, Washbourne said.
"Basically," Washbourne said, "we have found mechanisms by which two very important molecules, NMDA and PSD-95, are brought to a newly forming synapse."
Co-authors with Washbourne were postdoctoral researches Stephanie L. Barrow and Eliana Clark at UC-Davis, A. Kimberley McAllister, a professor in the UC-Davis Center for Neuroscience, and John R.L. Constable, a postdoctoral researcher in Washbourne's UO lab. Constable is funded by a medical research fellowship provided by Oregon Health and Science University in Portland.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (National Institutes of Health), the Florida-based non-profit Whitehall Foundation and New York-based Autism Speaks, the nation's largest autism science and advocacy organization, funded Washbourne's research. McAllister was funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts and National Eye Institute.About the University of Oregon
Source: Philip Washbourne, assistant professor of biology, 541- 346-4138, firstname.lastname@example.orgVideos:
Comments from Washbourne: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b99T5PfT7jcLinks:
Jim Barlow | Newswise Science News
Enzyme with surprising dual function
24.01.2018 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn
Flexibility and arrangement - the interaction of ribonucleic acid and water
24.01.2018 | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.
Physicists have developed a technique based on optical microscopy that can be used to create images of atoms on the nanoscale. In particular, the new method allows the imaging of quantum dots in a semiconductor chip. Together with colleagues from the University of Bochum, scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute reported the findings in the journal Nature Photonics.
Microscopes allow us to see structures that are otherwise invisible to the human eye. However, conventional optical microscopes cannot be used to image...
On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.
We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...
What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...
For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.
Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...
At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.
No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...
08.01.2018 | Event News
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
24.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
24.01.2018 | Health and Medicine
24.01.2018 | Health and Medicine