A biologist at Washington University in St. Louis and his collaborators have identified the factor in mammalian brain cells that keeps cells in synchrony so that functions like the wake-sleep cycle, hormone secretion and loco motor behaviors are coordinated daily over a 24-hour period.
Erik Herzog, Ph.D., Washington University associate professor of Biology in Arts & Sciences, Sara Aton, Ph.D., a graduate student in Herzog’s lab who is now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, James Huettner, Ph.D., associate professor in cell biology and physiology at the Washington
University School of Medicine, and Martin Straume, a biostatistician, have determined that VIP ¬– vasoactive intestinal polypeptide – is the rallying protein that signals the brain’s biological clock to coordinate daily rhythms in behavior and physiology.
The finding clarifies the roles that both VIP and a neurotransmitter GABA play in synchronizing biological clocks, and sheds light on how mammals, in this case mice and rats. regulate circadian rhythm. Results were published in the Nov. 27- Dec. 1 online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Neurons in the biological clock, an area called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), located at the base of the brain right across the optic nerve, keep 24-hour time and are normally highly synchronized. The SCN is composed of 10,000 neurons on one side of the hypothalamus, and 10,000 on the other. Together these neurons are intrinsic clocks in communication with each other to keep 24-hour time.
It had been thought that GABA was the prime candidate for the rallying role. All SCN neurons make this inhibitory neurotransmitter, and it had been shown that giving GABA daily at 8 a.m. to SCN cells synchronizes them.
“The surprise was that GABA was not needed,” said Herzog. “VIP synchronizes even when we block all GABA signaling. When we blocked GABA, synchrony was perfectly fine. Instead, the oscillations got bigger.”
Herzog likens VIP to the Pony Express rider telling all the SCN cells to synchronize their ; GABA, he says, is like the marshal that prevents he cells from being too active.
Herzog and Aton recorded neuron activity from the SCN using a multielectrode array with 60 electrodes upon which they place SCN cells, a “clock in a dish.” They also recorded gene expression in real-time using a bioluminescent reporter of gene activity.
Using drugs or genetic knock out mice, they negated the role of GABA and recorded the electrical activity of many neurons, what Herzog calls the “hands of the clock,” and the gene activities, “the cogs of the clock,” of many SCN cells.
They found that, without GABA, the cells marched together, but without VIP, they lost synchrony, indicating that VIP is the coordinator.
Tony Fitzpatrick | EurekAlert!
New Computer Model Could Explain how Simple Molecules Took First Step Toward Life
29.07.2015 | Brookhaven National Laboratory
Switch for building barrier in roots
29.07.2015 | The University of Tokyo
Researchers have developed an ultrafast light-emitting device that can flip on and off 90 billion times a second and could form the basis of optical computing.
Joint BioEnergy Institute study identifies bacterial protein that is key to protecting rice against bacterial blight
A bacterial signal that when recognized by rice plants enables the plants to resist a devastating blight disease has been identified by a multi-national team...
Researchers in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin are one step closer to delivering smart windows with a new level of energy efficiency, engineering materials that allow windows to reveal light without transferring heat and, conversely, to block light while allowing heat transmission, as described in two new research papers.
By allowing indoor occupants to more precisely control the energy and sunlight passing through a window, the new materials could significantly reduce costs for...
Argonne scientists used Mira to identify and improve a new mechanism for eliminating friction, which fed into the development of a hybrid material that exhibited superlubricity at the macroscale for the first time. Argonne Leadership Computing Facility (ALCF) researchers helped enable the groundbreaking simulations by overcoming a performance bottleneck that doubled the speed of the team's code.
While reviewing the simulation results of a promising new lubricant material, Argonne researcher Sanket Deshmukh stumbled upon a phenomenon that had never been...
A NASA camera on the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite has returned its first view of the entire sunlit side of Earth from one million miles away.
The color images of Earth from NASA's Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) are generated by combining three separate images to create a...
23.07.2015 | Event News
10.07.2015 | Event News
25.06.2015 | Event News
29.07.2015 | Physics and Astronomy
29.07.2015 | Life Sciences
29.07.2015 | Awards Funding