Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New insights into the molecular basis of memory

17.12.2015

Scientists from the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) in Göttingen and Munich have shed new light on the molecular basis of memory. Their study confirms that the formation of memories is accompanied by an altered activity of specific genes. In addition, they found an unprecedented amount of evidence that supports the hypothesis that chemical labels on the backbone of the DNA (so-called DNA methylation) may be the molecular basis of long-term memory. These findings are reported in „Nature Neuroscience“.

The brain still harbours many unknowns. Basically, it is assumed that it stores experiences by altering the connections between brain cells.


A new DZNE study supports the hypothesis that memories are encoded with the help of chemical labels on the DNA. The image shows a computer model of the DNA. Source: pixabay

This ability to adapt – which is also called “plasticity” – provides the basis for memory and learning, which is the ability to draw conclusions from memories. On a molecular scale these changes are mediated by modifications of expression of specific genes that as required strengthen or weaken the connections between the brain cells.

In the current study, a research team led by Dr. Stefan Bonn and Prof. André Fischer from Göttingen, joined forces with colleagues from the DZNE’s Munich site, to examine how the activity of such genes is regulated.

The scientists stimulated long-term memory in mice, by training the animals to recognise a specific test environment. Based on tissue samples, the researchers were able to discern to what extent this learning task triggered changes in the activity of the genes in the mice’s brain cells. Their focus was directed on so-called epigenetic modifications. These modifications involve the DNA and DNA associated proteins.

Epigenetic modifications

“The cell makes use of various mechanisms in order to turn genes on or off, without altering the DNA sequence itself. It’s called ‘epigenetics’,” explains Dr. Magali Hennion, a staff member of the research group of Stefan Bonn.

In principle, gene regulation can happen through methylation, whereby the backbone of the DNA is chemically labeled at specific sites. Changes in the proteins called histones that are packaging the DNA may also occur.

Hennion: “Research on epigenetic changes that are related to memory processes is still at an early stage. We look at such features, not only for the purpose of a better understanding of how memory works. We also look for potential targets for drugs that may counteract memory decline. Ultimately, our research is about therapies against Alzheimer’s and similar brain diseases.“

A code for memory contents?

In the current study the researchers found modifications, both of the histones as well as of the methylation of the DNA. However, histone modifications had little effect on the activity of genes involved in neuroplasticity. Furthermore, Bonn and his colleagues not only discovered epigenetic modifications in nerve cells, but also in non-neuronal cells of the brain.

„The relevance of non-neuronal cells for memory, is an interesting topic that we will continue to pursue“, says André Fischer, site speaker for the DZNE in Göttingen and professor at the University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG).

„Furthermore, our observations suggest that neuroplasticity is to a large extent regulated by DNA methylation. Although this is not a new hypothesis, our study provides an unprecedented amount of supporting evidence for this. Thus, methylation may indeed be an important molecular constituent of long-term memory. In such a case, methylation could be a sort of code for memory content and a potential target for therapies against Alzheimer’s disease. This is an aspect that we specifically want to focus on, in further studies.“

Original publication
„DNA methylation changes in plasticity genes accompany the formation and maintenance of memory“, Rashi Halder, Magali Hennion, Ramon O. Vidal, Orr Shomroni, Raza-Ur Rahman, Ashish Rajput, Tonatiuh Pena Centeno, Frauke van Bebber, Vincenzo Capece, Julio C. Garcia Vizcaino, Anna-Lena Schuetz, Susanne Burkhardt, Eva Benito, Magdalena Navarro Sala, Sanaz Bahari Javan, Christian Haass, Bettina Schmid, Andre Fischer, Stefan Bonn, Nature Neuroscience, DOI: 10.1038/nn.4194

The German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) investigates the causes of diseases of the nervous system and develops strategies for prevention, treatment and care. It is an institution within the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres with nine sites across Germany (Berlin, Bonn, Dresden, Göttingen, Magdeburg, Munich, Rostock/Greifswald, Tübingen and Witten). The DZNE cooperates closely with universities, their clinics and other research facilities.

Web: www.dzne.de/en  | Twitter: @dzne_en | Facebook: www.dzne.de/facebook 

Weitere Informationen:

http://www.dzne.de/en/about-us/public-relations/meldungen/2015/press-release-no-...

Dr. Marcus Neitzert | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht The birth of a new protein
20.10.2017 | University of Arizona

nachricht Building New Moss Factories
20.10.2017 | 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: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Terahertz spectroscopy goes nano

20.10.2017 | Information Technology

Strange but true: Turning a material upside down can sometimes make it softer

20.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

NRL clarifies valley polarization for electronic and optoelectronic technologies

20.10.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>