Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientists learn what makes nerve cells so strong

16.04.2013
Unique modification to microtubules makes nerve cells' cytoskeleton singularly robust

How do nerve cells -- which can each be up to three feet long in humans -- keep from rupturing or falling apart?

Axons, the long, cable-like projections on neurons, are made stronger by a unique modification of the common molecular building block of the cell skeleton. The finding, which may help guide the search for treatments for neurodegenerative diseases, was reported in the April 10 issue of Neuron by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine.

Microtubules are long, hollow cylinders that are a component of the cytoskeleton in all cells of the body. They also support transport of molecules within the cell and facilitate growth. They are made up of polymers of a building-block substance called tubulin.

"Except for neurons, cells' microtubules are in constant dynamic flux -- being taking apart and rebuilt," says Scott Brady, professor and head of anatomy and cell biology at UIC and principal investigator on the study. But only neurons grow so long, he said, and once created they must endure throughout a person's life, as much as 80 to 100 years. The microtubules of neurons are able to withstand laboratory conditions that cause other cells' microtubules to break apart.

Brady had been able to show some time ago that the neuron's stability depended on a modification of tubulin.

"But when we tried to figure out what the modification was, we didn't have the tools," he said.

Yuyu Song, a former graduate student in Brady's lab and the first author of the study, took up the question. "It was like a detective story with many possibilities that had to be ruled out one by one," she said. Song, who is now a post-doctoral fellow at Howard Hughes Medical Institute at Yale School of Medicine, used a variety of methods to determine the nature of the modification and where it occurs.

She found that tubulin is modified by the chemical bonding of polyamines, positively charged molecules, at sites that might otherwise be chinks where tubulin could be broken down, causing the microtubules to fall apart. She was also able to show that the enzyme transglutaminase was responsible for adding the protective polyamines.

The blocking of a vulnerable site on tubulin would explain the extraordinary stability of neuron microtubules, said Brady. However, convincing others required the "thorough and elegant work" that Song brought to it, he said. "It's such a radical finding that we needed to show all the key steps along the way."

The authors also note that increased microtubule stability correlates with decreased neuronal plasticity -- and both occur in the process of aging and in some neurodegenerative diseases. Continued research, they say, may help identify novel therapeutic approaches to prevent neurodegeneration or allow regeneration.

Laura Kirkpatrick of Lexicon Pharmaceuticals, Alexander Schilling and Donald Helseth of UIC, Jeffery W. Keillor of the University of Ottawa, and Gail Johnson of the University of Rochester Medical Center also contributed to the study.

The study was supported by grants (NS23868 and NS23320) from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

Jeanne Galatzer-Levy | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.uic.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht New insights into the world of trypanosomes
23.08.2017 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht New Test for Rare Immunodeficiency
23.08.2017 | Universität Basel

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New insights into the world of trypanosomes

23.08.2017 | Life Sciences

New Test for Rare Immunodeficiency

23.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Cholesterol-lowering drugs may fight infectious disease

22.08.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>