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
Not of Divided Mind
19.01.2017 | Hertie-Institut für klinische Hirnforschung (HIH)
CRISPR meets single-cell sequencing in new screening method
19.01.2017 | CeMM Forschungszentrum für Molekulare Medizin der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
19.01.2017 | Earth Sciences
19.01.2017 | Life Sciences
19.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy