An essential element in this process is a controlled protein production along with the synapse. VIB researchers connected to the Center for Human Genetics (K.U.Leuven) are now discovering how the Fragile X protein (FMRP) ensures that protein production is controlled at synapse and regulated by brain activity. Their findings are being published in the authoritative scientific journal Cell.
Fathoming the brain
Our ‘gray matter’ has yet to divulge all its secrets. For example, we do not yet fully understand how we are able to learn and remember things. We do know that dendrites and axons - the offshoots of brain cells - play a crucial role by making contact with each other in so-called synapses, through which signals are transmitted between different brain cells. Moreover, for properly functioning brain activity at a synapse, the right proteins must be present in the right concentrations. It has been known for some time that the brain’s cells are able to produce proteins directly at the place where they are needed. But exactly how the subtle regulation of this process works is still to be discovered.
FMRP: controlling protein production
Claudia Bagni (VIB, K.U.Leuven, University of Rome Tor Vergata) has been studying the FMRP protein for years now. The absence of FMRP leads to the Fragile X syndrome, a mental handicap afflicting a thousand Belgians. In this particular syndrome, the synapses are not well-formed. So, it is no surprise that FMRP plays an important role in the development and functioning of the brain. The researchers have already shown that FMRP suppresses protein production, but how has remained a mystery.
A shared job with CYFIP1
Ilaria Napoli and her colleagues from Claudia Bagni’s group are now discovering that FMRP cannot perform its job without another protein: CYFIP1. In a previous study, Claudia Bagni and her collaborators have shown that a reduced amount of FMRP in the brain increases the production of some neuronal proteins. The VIB researchers in Leuven have now elucidated the mechanism behind this. They have found that complexes of FMRP and CYFIP1 are located at the synapses and together suppress the local production of a number of proteins.
In the transduction of signals between brain cells, i.e. synaptic activation, CYFIP1 is released from the complex, whereby FMRP can no longer exercise its suppressing action. This is the impetus for the production of the proteins that are under the control of FMRP.
A change in the concentration of FMRP or CYFIP1 causes a disruption in this strict regulation of protein production. This, in its turn, causes diseases like Fragile X syndrome and Autism. Indeed, CYFIP1 has been recently found associated to Autism.
Importance of this research
With their research, Napoli and Bagni are shedding a bit more light on synapses in the brain - giving us more insight into learning and remembering, and also into a number of ‘brain disorders’. We now understand that, through its absence, FMRP plays a role in diseases like Fragile X syndrome and Autism.
Jonas De Backer | alfa
Closing the carbon loop
08.12.2016 | University of Pittsburgh
Newly discovered bacteria-binding protein in the intestine
08.12.2016 | University of Gothenburg
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
08.12.2016 | Life Sciences
08.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy
08.12.2016 | Materials Sciences