Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Capturing the Birth of a Synapse

28.05.2009
Researchers have identified the locking mechanism that allows some neurons to form synapses to pass along essential information. Mutations of genes that produce a critical cell-adhesion molecule involved in the work were previously linked to autism.

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
The University of Oregon is a world-class teaching and research institution and Oregon's flagship public university. The UO is a member of the Association of American Universities (AAU), an organization made up of the 62 leading public and private research institutions in the United States and Canada. The UO is one of only two AAU members in the Pacific Northwest.

Source: Philip Washbourne, assistant professor of biology, 541- 346-4138, pwash@uoneuro.uoregon.edu

Videos:
Synapse connection: http://www.neuraldevelopment.com/imedia/1289946488273731/supp3.avi

Comments from Washbourne: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b99T5PfT7jc

Links:
UO biology department: http://biology.uoregon.edu/
Washbourne Web page: http://www.neuro.uoregon.edu/ionmain/htdocs/faculty/washbourne.html
UO Institute of Neuroscience: http://www.neuro.uoregon.edu/
Journal paper: http://www.neuraldevelopment.com/content/4/1/17
McAllister faculty page: http://neuroscience.ucdavis.edu/user/9

Jim Barlow | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.uoregon.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Symbiotic bacteria: from hitchhiker to beetle bodyguard
28.04.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

nachricht Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis
28.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Grenzflächen- und Bioverfahrenstechnik IGB

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>