Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

MIT researchers develop a better way to see molecules at work in living brain cells

08.10.2010
New method helps explain synapse formation

By creating a better way to see molecules at work in living brain cells, researchers affiliated with MIT's Picower Institute for Learning and Memory and the MIT Department of Chemistry are helping elucidate molecular mechanisms of synapse formation.

These studies could also help further understanding of how synapses go awry in developmental diseases such as autism and Fragile X syndrome. The study will appear in the Oct. 7 issue of Cell.

Using the new technique, which is more accurate and sensitive than existing methods, the researchers found that certain protein-protein interactions can affect early phases of synapse maturation. Their work will help scientists understand exactly how two adjacent neurons form a synapse—the meeting point where information transfer among brain cells occurs. This method provides information on the dynamics of proteins in synapses on a minute-by-minute time scale, the researchers said.

"How nascent contacts mature into excitatory or inhibitory synapses is an area of intense interest," said Amar Thyagarajan, Autism Speaks Postdoctoral Fellow in the laboratory of Alice Y. Ting, associate professor of chemistry. "Trans-synaptic signaling complexes seem like a good place to start looking for clues to this process since they mediate signaling into the pre- and post-synaptic cells during this process."

Study co-authors Thyagarajan and Ting are Picower Institute affiliates.

The researchers studied the interaction of the proteins neurexin and neuroligin on the surface of neurons. These adhesion molecules--two of many in the brain that regulate synapse formation, maturation, function and plasticity--not only function as the "glue" that hold neurons together but also mediate signaling so that the appropriate molecular components are recruited for the pre- and postsynaptic cells.

Neurexins and neuroligins can be thought of as a chemical bridge and communication network that spans the synaptic cleft.

Called BLINC (Biotin Labeling of Intercellular Contacts), the new technique creates a fluorescent signal only when neurexin and neuroligin interact. "The only way for a BLINC signal to occur is when two neurons contact each other," Thyagarajan said.

For a long time, it had been known that neurexins and neuroligins are important for synapse maturation. However, their exact function was unclear since most previous studies used indirect methods such as manipulating gene expression to infer function.

"Our motivation was that if we could come up with a way to directly observe this complex, then maybe we could better understand its function in synapse maturation," Thyagarajan said.

"We developed BLINC to visualize this complex in live synapses in culture. We then used BLINC in different modalities to discover that synaptic activity causes the neurexin-neuroligin complex to grow in size," he said. "This growth is necessary for the recruitment of AMPA receptors to young synapses.

"AMPA receptor recruitment is a hallmark of excitatory synapse maturation, so our study demonstrated how a trans-synaptic complex can affect early phases of synapse maturation," Thyagarajan said.

Source: "Imaging Activity-Dependent Regulation of Neurexin-Neuroligin Interactions Using trans-Synaptic Enzymatic Biotinylation," by Amar Thyagarajan and Alice Y. Ting. Cell, 7 October, 2010.

Jennifer Hirsch | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.mit.edu

Further reports about: AMPA BLINC Picower brain cell cell death synapse formation

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht The irresistible fragrance of dying vinegar flies
16.08.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für chemische Ökologie

nachricht How protein islands form
15.08.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

Im Focus: Scientists improve forecast of increasing hazard on Ecuadorian volcano

Researchers from the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, the Italian Space Agency (ASI), and the Instituto Geofisico--Escuela Politecnica Nacional (IGEPN) of Ecuador, showed an increasing volcanic danger on Cotopaxi in Ecuador using a powerful technique known as Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR).

The Andes region in which Cotopaxi volcano is located is known to contain some of the world's most serious volcanic hazard. A mid- to large-size eruption has...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New thruster design increases efficiency for future spaceflight

16.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Transporting spin: A graphene and boron nitride heterostructure creates large spin signals

16.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

A new method for the 3-D printing of living tissues

16.08.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>