Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientists Discover New Gene Essential For The Development Of Normal Brain Connections Resulting From Sensory Input

09.01.2004


Biologists at the University of California, San Diego and the Johns Hopkins University have discovered a gene that plays a key role in initiating changes in the brain in response to sensory experience, a finding that may provide insight into certain types of learning disorders.


Images of neurons from normal mice (left) and from mice lacking CREST gene (right) Credit: Anirvan Ghosh



After birth, learning and experience change the architecture of the brain dramatically. The structure of individual neurons, or nerve cells, changes during learning to accommodate new connections between neurons. Neuroscientists believe these structural changes are initiated when neurons are activated, causing calcium ions to flow into cells and alter the activity of genes.

In a paper featured on the cover of the January 9th issue of the journal Science, biologists at UCSD and the Johns Hopkins University medical school report the discovery of the first gene, CREST, known to mediate these changes in the structure of neurons in response to calcium.


“We discovered the gene CREST using a new method we developed to identify genes that are switched on in the presence of calcium,” says Anirvan Ghosh, a professor of biology at UCSD who headed the study. “The brains of mice lacking CREST appear normal at birth, but do not develop normally in response to sensory experience after birth. This parallels some learning disorders in humans where the child appears normal initially, but by the age of two or three years it becomes clear that there are failures in the acquisition of new knowledge.”

Neurons from normal mice develop a highly branched tree-like structure. In fact, much of the growth of the brain that occurs soon after birth is the development and branching of dendrites—the part of a nerve cell that receives input from other neurons. Thus, this branching allows neurons to form many different synapses, or connections, with many other neurons, permitting much cross talk between them. Neurons taken from mice lacking the CREST gene are more linear, like a plant shoot.

In addition, when individual neurons kept alive in a Petri dish are stimulated with calcium ions, they respond by developing highly branched dendrites, but neurons taken from mice lacking CREST fail to branch in response to calcium.

“CREST is the first example of a transcription factor—a protein that turns genes on and off—that appears to be specifically required for the development of brain neurons after birth," explains Ghosh, who conducted the study at his former laboratory at Johns Hopkins.

His new laboratory at UCSD is currently working to determine what gene is targeted by CREST. Ghosh suspects the CREST gene might be turning on the production of chemicals called growth factors, for the stimulatory effect they have on cell development.

The CREST protein produced by that gene is made in several regions of the brain immediately after birth. In adults, the protein is produced in a region of the brain known as the hippocampus, which plays an important role in learning and memory. Because of this, Ghosh suspects that CREST may be necessary for the storage of new memories and the ability to learn. His laboratory is currently developing mice in which CREST expression is normal throughout most of development, so the brain develops normally, but then shuts off in the hippocampus when the mice reach adulthood. In this way, the researchers can test the specific role of CREST in learning and memory in adults.

“Humans also have CREST, and the CREST gene sequence is highly similar between mice and humans,” says Ghosh. “If it turns out that CREST plays a role in learning and memory in the mouse, then it is very likely it also plays a similar role in humans.”

The other researchers involved in the study are Hiroyuki Aizawa, Shu-Ching Hu, Kathryn Bobb, Karthik Balakriashnan, Inga Gurevich and Mitra Cowan. The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation, the Klingenstein Foundation, Merck and the Uehara Memorial Foundation.


Media Contact: Sherry Seethaler (858) 534-4656
Comment: Anirvan Ghosh (858) 822-4142

Sherry Seethaler | UCSD
Further information:
http://ucsdnews.ucsd.edu/newsrel/science/screst.asp

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Two Group A Streptococcus genes linked to 'flesh-eating' bacterial infections
25.09.2017 | University of Maryland

nachricht Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity
22.09.2017 | DFG-Forschungszentrum für Regenerative Therapien TU Dresden

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: LaserTAB: More efficient and precise contacts thanks to human-robot collaboration

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...

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

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

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

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...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

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...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Fraunhofer ISE Pushes World Record for Multicrystalline Silicon Solar Cells to 22.3 Percent

25.09.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Usher syndrome: Gene therapy restores hearing and balance

25.09.2017 | Health and Medicine

An international team of physicists a coherent amplification effect in laser excited dielectrics

25.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>