SPRED2: This protein is found in humans and other mammals. Among those who discovered it is a team of scientists from the University of Würzburg led by Kai Schuh. The professor is researching the function that this protein performs. In this area, he and his doctoral student Melanie Ullrich as well as other colleagues from Würzburg, Ulm, and Stockholm have now made new findings that are reported in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
Insights into the function of the protein were gained by the scientists using mice that lack the SPRED2 gene and are therefore unable to create the protein. These animals demonstrate unusual behavior: they drink twice as much as normal mice and scratch themselves extremely often, such as behind the ears.
Abnormal hormonal states
Why this abnormal behavior? To clarify this, the researchers from the University of Würzburg’s Institute of Physiology analyzed the organism of these animals very closely. One of the discoveries they made were significantly elevated quantities of the stress hormone cortisone and of the hormone aldosterone. The latter causes an increase in the concentration of salt in the blood, thereby raising blood pressure. Consequently, the mice drink more water so they can expel the excess salt more successfully.
The studies revealed other striking irregularities. The synapses in the brain release a greater number of transmitters. There is also an overabundance of the hormones CRH and ACTH, which are formed in the brain and the pituitary gland: these two transmitters in a signal chain control the production of the hormones cortisone and aldosterone in the adrenal cortex.
SPRED2, an inhibitor protein
The researchers concluded that if the organism is missing the protein SPRED2 the hormonal signal chain from the brain to the pituitary gland to the adrenal cortex is activated far too strongly. It would appear that the protein has the effect of slowing down this system that the organism sets in motion whenever it has to overcome physical or mental stress.
This therefore means that, hormonally speaking, SPRED2-free mice are in a state of permanent stress. The researchers are therefore interpreting the continuous scratching that they observe with these animals as a stress-related compulsion. “The elevated quantity of cortisone simulates stress for them,” says Kai Schuh. No evidence has been found of other conceivable causes for the scratching, such as diabetes.
Illnesses due to defective SPRED2?
The absence of SPRED2 leads to a hormone surplus with too much cortisone and aldosterone – this would suggest that a malfunction of this gene could have something to do with high blood pressure or other illnesses, such as depression. Scientists are also considering genetic causes for both ailments.
“We are not currently aware of any illnesses in humans that are connected to SPRED2,” says Professor Schuh. But this could all change, as the example of the closely related SPRED1 gene shows: geneticists only recently proved for the first time that a defect to this gene is the sole cause of neurofibromatosis, tumor-like growths of the nerve tissue.
Next steps for the researchers
There are many questions relating to the function of the SPRED2 protein that the Würzburg researchers have yet to answer. They want to work with neurophysiologists to analyze why the synapses in the brain are overactive without the protein. They are also looking in nerve cells for molecules that interact with SPRED2.
Are the mice really scratching because the hormones are simulating a stress situation for them? Behavioral experiments, conducted in collaboration with Professor Klaus-Peter Lesch from the Department of Psychiatry, should answer this question. The scientists are also planning to administer a common antidepressant to the “stressed” animals as an experiment to see whether it might alleviate the symptoms at all.
Identification of Sprouty-related protein with EVH-1 domain (SPRED) 2 as a negative regulator of the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis, Melanie Ullrich, Karin Bundschu, Peter M. Benz, Marco Abesser, Ruth Freudinger, Tobias Fischer, Julia Ullrich, Thomas Renne, Ulrich Walter, and Kai Schuh, The Journal of Biological Chemistry, Vol. 286, Issue 11, 9477-9488, March 18, 2011, DOI 10.1074/jbc.M110.171306
Prof. Dr. Kai Schuh, Institute of Physiology at the University of Würzburg, T +49 (0)931 31-82740, email@example.com
Robert Emmerich | idw
Cancer diagnosis: no more needles?
25.05.2018 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel
Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found
25.05.2018 | Leibniz-Institut für Alternsforschung - Fritz-Lipmann-Institut e.V. (FLI)
The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.
Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...
A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.
The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
25.05.2018 | Event News
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering
25.05.2018 | Life Sciences