Recent findings in basic biomedical research might pave the way towards novel therapies
Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing in Cologne and University College London have now unearthed the way in which a specific genetic mutation leads to neuronal damage in two serious afflictions, that might even occur at once in a single person: Until now, it has been unknown what causes amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal dementia.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a devastating type of motor neuron disease that causes rapid weakening of muscles and death. Frontotemporal dementia is the second most common cause of dementia in people under 65. It causes distressing symptoms, including changes in personality and behaviour and problems with language and thinking.
The DNA of affected patients contains a mutation: There are thousands of repeats of a specific short segment of genetic material, whereas in unaffected persons, there are only up to thirty copies of this segment. This specific genetic alteration is the cause of illness in around eight percent of patients with this type of motor neuron disease or dementia. Eight percent is a relatively high proportion. For instance, less than one percent of the causes in Alzheimer’s disease are genetic.
Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing, the Institute of Neurology and Institute for Healthy Ageing at University College London have now discovered that the repeats in the mutant gene cause neurodegeneration by making toxic proteins.
Fruitflies can undergo neurodegeneration in a similar way to humans
Previously it was thought that the problem could be a consequence of disruption of the gene by the inserted repeats. Another theory was that the repeats produce a different type of toxic RNA molecule. It now turns out that the repeats in the mutant gene can produce a variety of proteins and that two of these are extremely toxic to nerve cells. Both are highly enriched in arginine, an amino acid.
To pinpoint the role of the toxic proteins, the researchers produced artificial repeat segments that could produce potentially toxic RNA and protein or only toxic RNA or only protein. They then introduced them into the nerve cells of fruit flies, which can undergo neurodegeneration in a similar way to humans. Repeat segments that made both RNA and protein caused striking neurodegeneration and reduced the lifespan of the flies, showing that they are a good organism in which to study these diseases. Interestingly, the protein-only repeat segments caused just as bad a neurodegeneration. In contrast, the RNA-only segments were harmless, pinpointing the role of toxic proteins in these diseases. The proteins that contained arginine were the most toxic.
These findings have uncovered a new toxic role for arginine-containing proteins in motor neuron disease and dementia, which helps in the development of drugs to fight these serious afflictions.
C9orf72 repeat expansions cause neurodegeneration in Drosophila through arginine-rich proteins.
Sarah Mizielinska, Sebastian Grönke, Teresa Niccoli, Charlotte E. Ridler, Emma L. Clayton, Anny Devoy, Thomas Moens, Frances E. Norona, Ione O.C. Woollacott, Julian Pietrzyk, Karen Cleverley, Andrew J. Nicoll, Stuart Pickering-Brown, Jacqueline Dols, Melissa Cabecinha, Oliver Hendrich, Pietro Fratta, Elizabeth M.C. Fisher, Linda Partridge, and Adrian M. Isaacs.
Science Express, August 7, 2014.
Sabine Dzuck | Max-Planck-Institut
Researchers uncover protein-based “cancer signature”
05.12.2016 | Universität Basel
The Nagoya Protocol Creates Disadvantages for Many Countries when Applied to Microorganisms
05.12.2016 | Leibniz-Institut DSMZ-Deutsche Sammlung von Mikroorganismen und Zellkulturen GmbH
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,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering
05.12.2016 | Materials Sciences
05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering