The new research, published today in PLOS Biology, solves a part of the puzzle of how vertebrates prioritise the order in which they begin to develop different sets of structures. During development only a few signals instruct cells to form thousands of cell types, so the timing of how cells interpret these signals is critical.
An international research team led by Professor Claudio Stern of the UCL Department of Anatomy & Developmental Biology has shown that the first stage of development of the brain and nervous system is, paradoxically, a block on its progression.
The scientists describe a sequence of reactions that take place when vertebrate embryos are only a few hours old that together act as a timing mechanism, temporarily stopping the development of neural cells - cells that go on to form the brain and nervous system. This gives a head-start to other cells in the embryo that will go on to create the body’s internal organs and skin and prevents the nervous system from developing prematurely.
Dr Costis Papanayotou of the Stern laboratory discovered a new protein - BERT - which binds with the protein ERNI (previously discovered by Professor Stern’s team) and other proteins to unblock a gene (Sox2) that gives the green light to cells to start forming the brain and nervous system.
Professor Stern said: “Scientists have been looking for a long time for the switches that determine when cells in the embryo take on specific roles. Our work shows that the proteins BERT and ERNI have an antagonistic relationship: BERT is stronger and overrides ERNI’s suppression of the Sox2 gene, which has a crucial function in setting up the nervous system.”
As the Sox2 gene is also needed for stem cells to retain their ability to take on a variety of roles in the body and to renew themselves, this research also advances our knowledge of stem cell behaviour, which could have implications for this growing area of medical research.
Jenny Gimpel | alfa
Scientists spin artificial silk from whey protein
24.01.2017 | Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron DESY
Choreographing the microRNA-target dance
24.01.2017 | UT Southwestern Medical Center
A Swedish-German team of researchers has cleared up a key process for the artificial production of silk. With the help of the intense X-rays from DESY's...
For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.
According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
24.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.01.2017 | Life Sciences
24.01.2017 | Health and Medicine