Scientists from Baylor College of Medicine (Texas, USA) and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute (Cambridge, UK) have deciphered how neurons can synthesize a diverse range of proteins from a relatively limited number of genes – a discovery with important implications for understanding how complex neural circuitry is formed and maintained throughout our lives.
A long-standing question in neurobiology is how each of the tens of thousands of neurons that populate the mammalian brain are instructed to establish the specific connections that give rise to our complex neural networks. Researchers postulate that the expression of distinct sets of proteins in each individual neuron act as molecular cues to direct the course of each neurons fate. The protocadherin (Pcdh) family of proteins are prime candidates for this job, as each individual neuron expresses an overlapping but distinct combination of Pcdh proteins.
In the August 1 issue of Genes & Development, Dr. Allan Bradley and colleagues report on their identification of the mechanism of neuron-specific Pcdh expression. The Pcdh family of proteins is encoded by three gene clusters (Pcdh-a, Pcdh-ß, and Pcdh-g) on human chromosome #5, and mouse chromosome #18. The a and g clusters each contain genes with several variable exons (coding regions of DNA). Each variable exon can be separately joined to a constant region of the gene, thereby creating the genetic blueprint for a Pcdh protein that will have a unique variable region and a common constant region.
Heather Cosel | EurekAlert!
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At the productronica trade fair in Munich this November, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be presenting Laser-Based Tape-Automated Bonding, LaserTAB for short. The experts from Aachen will be demonstrating how new battery cells and power electronics can be micro-welded more efficiently and precisely than ever before thanks to new optics and robot support.
Fraunhofer ILT from Aachen relies on a clever combination of robotics and a laser scanner with new optics as well as process monitoring, which it has developed...
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
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25.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy