The first evidence that a group of proteins called phosphatases play a key role in the development of the nervous system, has been shown in fruit flies and mice by researchers at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine, in collaboration with scientists at the Salk Institute, La Jolla, California. The phosphatases are required for maintenance of neural stem cells and for silencing expression of neuronal genes in non-nervous system tissues.
Published in the January 28, 2005 issue of the journal Science, the study found that the phosphatases, called small carboxyl-terminal domain phosphatases (SCPs) are expressed in almost all tissues of the body. In their "on" position, the phosphatases prevent neuronal genes from being expressed in areas of the body, such as the heart and liver, where they shouldnt be. When these phosphatases are shut off in the nervous system, neuronal stem cells can develop into specialized neurons.
The researchers determined that SCPs are a component of a previously identified master gene complex called REST/NRSF, which is known to control neuronal genes. In their investigations with mice and fruit flies, the scientists found that REST/NRSF recruits SCPs only to neuronal genes. "These findings suggest a way to expand the pool of neuronal stem cells, which could lead to new therapeutic strategies for neurological disorders," said the studys senior author, Gordon Gill, M.D., UCSD professor of medicine.
Sue Pondrom | EurekAlert!
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