Bolstering disintegrating neural connections may help boost brainpower in Alzheimer's disease patients, MIT researchers and colleagues will report in the Nov. 8 issue of Neuron.
The researchers zeroed in on the enzymes that manipulate a key scaffolding protein for synapses, the connections through which brain cells communicate. Synapses are weakened and lost in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.
"We identified a major underlying mechanism through which synapses are strengthened and maintained," said Morgan H. Sheng, Menicon Professor of Neuroscience at MIT's Picower Institute for Learning and Memory. "The enzymes involved could be good targets for potential drug treatments."
A protein called postsynaptic density-95 (PSD-95) is a key building block of synapses. Like the steel girders in a building, it acts as a scaffold around which other components are assembled. "The more PSD-95 molecules, the bigger and stronger the synapse," said co-author Myung Jong Kim, a Picower research scientist.
Previous research had shown that mice genetically altered to have less PSD-95 experienced learning and memory problems.
In the current study, the researchers identified for the first time the enzymes that work behind the scenes on PSD-95, adding a phosphate group to a specific amino acid in the PSD-95 protein. This process--called phosphorylation--is critical for PSD-95 to do its job in supporting synapses.
"Adding a phosphate group to a single amino acid allows PSD-95 to promote synapse size and strength," said Sheng, who also holds an appointment in MIT's Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. "Therefore, promoting this process could help improve cognitive function."
Sheng believes manipulating PSD-95 through phosphorylation could lead to bigger and more robust synapses, which would boost brainpower in both normal and diseased brains. "It's possible that promoting PSD-95 phosphorylation could also help neuropsychiatric illnesses in which synapse function goes awry, such as schizophrenia, depression and autism," Sheng said.
In addition to Sheng and Kim, authors include Picower research scientist Kensuke Futai; Yasunori Hayashi, MIT assistant professor of neurobiology and RIKEN-MIT investigator; and Jihoon Yu and Kwangwook Cho of the University of Bristol in England.
This research is suported by the National Institutes of Health.
Elizabeth A. Thomson | MIT News Office
Programming cells with computer-like logic
27.07.2017 | Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard
Identified the component that allows a lethal bacteria to spread resistance to antibiotics
27.07.2017 | Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona)
Physicists working with researcher Oriol Romero-Isart devised a new simple scheme to theoretically generate arbitrarily short and focused electromagnetic fields. This new tool could be used for precise sensing and in microscopy.
Microwaves, heat radiation, light and X-radiation are examples for electromagnetic waves. Many applications require to focus the electromagnetic fields to...
Strong light-matter coupling in these semiconducting tubes may hold the key to electrically pumped lasers
Light-matter quasi-particles can be generated electrically in semiconducting carbon nanotubes. Material scientists and physicists from Heidelberg University...
Fraunhofer IPA has developed a proximity sensor made from silicone and carbon nanotubes (CNT) which detects objects and determines their position. The materials and printing process used mean that the sensor is extremely flexible, economical and can be used for large surfaces. Industry and research partners can use and further develop this innovation straight away.
At first glance, the proximity sensor appears to be nothing special: a thin, elastic layer of silicone onto which black square surfaces are printed, but these...
3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects
A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...
Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.
For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...
26.07.2017 | Event News
21.07.2017 | Event News
19.07.2017 | Event News
27.07.2017 | Life Sciences
27.07.2017 | Life Sciences
27.07.2017 | Health and Medicine