Schizophrenia, autism and other disorders are associated with changes in connectivity in the brain, said Kimberley McAllister, associate professor in the Center for Neuroscience and Departments of Neurology and Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior at UC Davis. Those changes affect the ability of the brain to process information correctly.
"Certain immune genes and immune dysregulation have also been associated with autism and schizophrenia, and the immune molecules that we study in brain development could be a pathway that contributes to that altered connectivity," McAllister said.
The study does not show a direct link between immune responses and autism, but rather reveals a molecular pathway through which a peripheral immune response or particular genetic profile could alter early brain development, McAllister said.
The researchers looked at a protein called Major Histocompatibility Complex type 1 (MHC type I). In both rodents and humans, these proteins vary between individuals, and allow the immune system to distinguish between 'self' and 'non-self.' They play a role, for example, in rejecting transplanted organs and in defending against cancer and virus infections.
In this and another recently published study, McAllister's group found that MHC type I molecules are present on young brain cells during early postnatal development. To test their function, they studied mice lacking MHC type I on the surface of neurons, as well as isolated neurons from mice and rats with altered levels of MHC type I. They found that when the density of these molecules on the surface of a brain cell goes up, the number of connections, or synapses, it has with neighboring brain cells goes down. The reverse was also true: decreased MHC expression increased synaptic connections.
"The effect on synapse density was mediated through MHC type I proteins," McAllister said.
"But these immune proteins don't just regulate synapse density, they also determine the balance of excitation and inhibition on young neurons -- a property critical for information processing and plasticity in young brains."
Expression of MHCI on neurons was itself regulated by neural activity, the team found, and MHCI mediated the ability of neural activity to alter synaptic connections.
About 10 years ago, other researchers discovered that MHC type I is involved in elimination of connections during a critical period of late postnatal brain development.
"We have now found that there is another role for MHC type I in establishing connections during early postnatal development of the brain," McAllister said.
The other coauthors on the paper were: former graduate student Marian Glynn, graduate students Bradford Elmer and Paula Garay, researcher Xiao-Bo Liu, postdoctoral researcher Leigh Needleman, and research associate Faten El-Sabeawy.
Funding for the work was provided by grants from several foundations, including Cure Autism Now, the John Merck Fund, the March of Dimes, and the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression; a pilot grant from the UC Davis MIND Institute, and the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
Andy Fell | EurekAlert!
Barium ruthenate: A high-yield, easy-to-handle perovskite catalyst for the oxidation of sulfides
16.07.2018 | Tokyo Institute of Technology
The secret sulfate code that lets the bad Tau in
16.07.2018 | American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.
To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...
For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.
Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...
Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.
A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...
Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.
"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....
Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.
Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...
13.07.2018 | Event News
12.07.2018 | Event News
03.07.2018 | Event News
16.07.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
16.07.2018 | Life Sciences
16.07.2018 | Earth Sciences