Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Sanford-Burnham researchers unravel molecular roots of Down syndrome

25.03.2013
Sanford-Burnham researchers discover that the extra chromosome inherited in Down syndrome impairs learning and memory because it leads to low levels of SNX27 protein in the brain

What is it about the extra chromosome inherited in Down syndrome—chromosome 21—that alters brain and body development? Researchers at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute (Sanford-Burnham) have new evidence that points to a protein called sorting nexin 27, or SNX27.

SNX27 production is inhibited by a molecule encoded on chromosome 21. The study, published March 24 in Nature Medicine, shows that SNX27 is reduced in human Down syndrome brains. The extra copy of chromosome 21 means a person with Down syndrome produces less SNX27 protein, which in turn disrupts brain function. What's more, the researchers showed that restoring SNX27 in Down syndrome mice improves cognitive function and behavior.

"In the brain, SNX27 keeps certain receptors on the cell surface—receptors that are necessary for neurons to fire properly," said Huaxi Xu, Ph.D., professor in Sanford-Burnham's Del E. Webb Neuroscience, Aging and Stem Cell Research Center and senior author of the study. "So, in Down syndrome, we believe lack of SNX27 is at least partly to blame for developmental and cognitive defects."

SNX27's role in brain function

Xu and colleagues started out working with mice that lack one copy of the snx27 gene. They noticed that the mice were mostly normal, but showed some significant defects in learning and memory. So the team dug deeper to determine why SNX27 would have that effect. They found that SNX27 helps keep glutamate receptors on the cell surface in neurons. Neurons need glutamate receptors in order to function correctly. With less SNX27, these mice had fewer active glutamate receptors and thus impaired learning and memory.

SNX27 levels are low in Down syndrome

Then the team got thinking about Down syndrome. The SNX27-deficient mice shared some characteristics with Down syndrome, so they took a look at human brains with the condition. This confirmed the clinical significance of their laboratory findings—humans with Down syndrome have significantly lower levels of SNX27.

Next, Xu and colleagues wondered how Down syndrome and low SNX27 are connected—could the extra chromosome 21 encode something that affects SNX27 levels? They suspected microRNAs, small pieces of genetic material that don't code for protein, but instead influence the production of other genes. It turns out that chromosome 21 encodes one particular microRNA called miR-155. In human Down syndrome brains, the increase in miR-155 levels correlates almost perfectly with the decrease in SNX27.

Xu and his team concluded that, due to the extra chromosome 21 copy, the brains of people with Down syndrome produce extra miR-155, which by indirect means decreases SNX27 levels, in turn decreasing surface glutamate receptors. Through this mechanism, learning, memory, and behavior are impaired.

Restoring SNX27 function rescues Down syndrome mice

If people with Down syndrome simply have too much miR-155 or not enough SNX27, could that be fixed? The team explored this possibility. They used a noninfectious virus as a delivery vehicle to introduce new human SNX27 in the brains of Down syndrome mice.

"Everything goes back to normal after SNX27 treatment. It's amazing—first we see the glutamate receptors come back, then memory deficit is repaired in our Down syndrome mice," said Xin Wang, a graduate student in Xu's lab and first author of the study. "Gene therapy of this sort hasn't really panned out in humans, however. So we're now screening small molecules to look for some that might increase SNX27 production or function in the brain."

This research was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (National Institute on Aging grants R01AG038710, R01AG021173, R01AG030197, R01AG044420; National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke grants R01NS046673, P30NS076411; Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development grant P01HD29587; National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences grant P01ES016738), Alzheimer's Association, American Health Assistance Foundation, National Natural Science Foundation of China, 973 Prophase Project, Natural Science Funds for Distinguished Young Scholar of Fujian Province, Program for New Century Excellent Talents in Universities, Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities, and Fok Ying Tung Education Foundation.

The study was co-authored by Xin Wang, Sanford-Burnham; Yingjun Zhao, Sanford-Burnham and Xiamen University; Xiaofei Zhang, Sanford-Burnham; Hedieh Badie, Sanford-Burnham; Ying Zhou, Sanford-Burnham; Yangling Mu, Salk Institute; Li Shen Loo, Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, Singapore; Lei Cai, Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, Singapore; Robert C. Thompson, Sanford-Burnham; Bo Yang, Sanford-Burnham; Yaomin Chen, Sanford-Burnham; Peter F. Johnson, National Cancer Institute-Frederick; Chengbiao Wu, University of California, San Diego; Guojun Bu, Xiamen University; William C. Mobley, University of California, San Diego; Dongxian Zhang, Sanford-Burnham; Fred H. Gage, Salk Institute; Barbara Ranscht, Sanford-Burnham; Yun-wu Zhang, Sanford-Burnham and Xiamen University; Stuart A. Lipton, Sanford-Burnham and University of California, San Diego; Wanjin Hong, Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, Singapore and Xiamen University; and Huaxi Xu, Sanford-Burnham and Xiamen University.

About Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute

Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute is dedicated to discovering the fundamental molecular causes of disease and devising the innovative therapies of tomorrow. Sanford-Burnham takes a collaborative approach to medical research with major programs in cancer, neurodegeneration, diabetes, and infectious, inflammatory, and childhood diseases. The Institute is recognized for its National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center and expertise in drug discovery technologies. Sanford-Burnham is a nonprofit, independent institute that employs 1,200 scientists and staff in San Diego (La Jolla), California and Orlando (Lake Nona), Florida. For more information, visit us at sanfordburnham.org.

Heather Buschman | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.sanfordburnham.org

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Topologische Quantenchemie
21.07.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Chemische Physik fester Stoffe

nachricht Topological Quantum Chemistry
21.07.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Chemische Physik fester Stoffe

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: 3-D scanning with water

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...

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

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...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

Im Focus: On the way to a biological alternative

A bacterial enzyme enables reactions that open up alternatives to key industrial chemical processes

The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....

Im Focus: The 1 trillion tonne iceberg

Larsen C Ice Shelf rift finally breaks through

A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

The technology with a feel for feelings

12.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Ultrathin device harvests electricity from human motion

24.07.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Scientists announce the quest for high-index materials

24.07.2017 | Materials Sciences

ADIR Project: Lasers Recover Valuable Materials

24.07.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>