Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

UT Southwestern researchers pinpoint role cell surface protein group plays in brain function

26.06.2003


A specific group of brain proteins is essential to activate communication between neurons, and without this group of proteins all functions of the central nervous system are disrupted, researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas have discovered.


Dr. Thomas Südhof and his collaborators have discovered that a group of specialized proteins, in mice, is essential for communication between neurons. Without this group of proteins, all components of the central nervous system are disrupted



The disruption of this specialized group of proteins, called alpha-Neurexins, causes severe interruption of synaptic transmission, which is essential for neurons to communicate in the central nervous system. Synapses are specialized junctions where neurons communicate with target cells.

The study findings, which were discovered in mice and published in today’s issue of Nature, expand the knowledge of the process of synaptic transmission and gives scientists new insight into how the brain works. Gaining a fundamental understanding of brain function is critical in order to eventually counter the degenerative effects of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases and schizophrenia, said Dr. Thomas Südhof, director of both the Center for Basic Neuroscience and the C. Vincent Prothro Center for Research in Basic Neuroscience at UT Southwestern and the study’s senior author.


"If you want to have any type of insight on how the brain works
you need to understand synaptic transmission," he said.

"The results from this study were a big surprise," Dr. Südhof said. "When we originally described alpha-Neurexin almost 10 years ago, we hypothesized that the proteins would be involved in signaling the synapses. We thought of it more in terms of the formation of the synapses. The surprise is that it turns out not to be involved in the formation of synapses but what happens subsequently to activate synapses."

To identify the role of these proteins, the researchers used genetically engineered laboratory mice that lacked alpha-Neurexin. The absence of the proteins in the mice resulted in the inactivity of the presynaptic half of the synapses, which is responsible for sending messages to neurons.

This led to an interruption of the mice’s breathing and ultimately death. After examining the nervous system of the mice, the researchers surprisingly found that all components of the nervous system were interrupted.

"The absence of alpha-Neurexin not only interferes with breathing, but it also disrupts all others functions of the nervous system, including perception and motor capabilities," said Dr. Südhof, who holds the Gill Distinguished Chair in Neuroscience Research and the Loyd B. Sands Distinguished Chair in Neuroscience.

Dr. Südhof and his collaborators began the current study almost eight years ago.

"Solving such fundamental questions is paramount in understanding any disease, especially neuronal diseases," said Dr. Südhof, who is also an investigator in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at UT Southwestern and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

"I think that the experiences of the last decade or so tell us that any neurological disease that affects the brain requires an understanding of the fundamental mechanisms. You can’t just look at the specific disease. At the most fundamental level, the brain functions by synaptic transmission and this process must be understood first in order to understand neurological diseases."

Other researchers involved in the study include Dr. Robert Hammer, a professor of biochemistry at UT Southwestern; researchers from the Center for Basic Neuroscience at UT Southwestern; and German researchers from Georgia Augusta University in Göttingen and Ruhr University in Buchum.


The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft.

Amy Shields | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.swmed.edu/
http://lists.utsouthwestern.edu/mailman/listinfo/utswnews

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Turning carbon dioxide into liquid fuel
06.08.2020 | DOE/Argonne National Laboratory

nachricht Tellurium makes the difference
06.08.2020 | Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: ScanCut project completed: laser cutting enables more intricate plug connector designs

Scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT have come up with a striking new addition to contact stamping technologies in the ERDF research project ScanCut. In collaboration with industry partners from North Rhine-Westphalia, the Aachen-based team of researchers developed a hybrid manufacturing process for the laser cutting of thin-walled metal strips. This new process makes it possible to fabricate even the tiniest details of contact parts in an eco-friendly, high-precision and efficient manner.

Plug connectors are tiny and, at first glance, unremarkable – yet modern vehicles would be unable to function without them. Several thousand plug connectors...

Im Focus: New Strategy Against Osteoporosis

An international research team has found a new approach that may be able to reduce bone loss in osteoporosis and maintain bone health.

Osteoporosis is the most common age-related bone disease which affects hundreds of millions of individuals worldwide. It is estimated that one in three women...

Im Focus: AI & single-cell genomics

New software predicts cell fate

Traditional single-cell sequencing methods help to reveal insights about cellular differences and functions - but they do this with static snapshots only...

Im Focus: TU Graz Researchers synthesize nanoparticles tailored for special applications

“Core-shell” clusters pave the way for new efficient nanomaterials that make catalysts, magnetic and laser sensors or measuring devices for detecting electromagnetic radiation more efficient.

Whether in innovative high-tech materials, more powerful computer chips, pharmaceuticals or in the field of renewable energies, nanoparticles – smallest...

Im Focus: Tailored light inspired by nature

An international research team with Prof. Cornelia Denz from the Institute of Applied Physics at the University of Münster develop for the first time light fields using caustics that do not change during propagation. With the new method, the physicists cleverly exploit light structures that can be seen in rainbows or when light is transmitted through drinking glasses.

Modern applications as high resolution microsopy or micro- or nanoscale material processing require customized laser beams that do not change during...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2020”: The final touches for surfaces

23.07.2020 | Event News

Conference radar for cybersecurity

21.07.2020 | Event News

Contact Tracing Apps against COVID-19: German National Academy Leopoldina hosts international virtual panel discussion

07.07.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

Rare Earth Elements in Norwegian Fjords?

06.08.2020 | Earth Sciences

Anode material for safe batteries with a long cycle life

06.08.2020 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Turning carbon dioxide into liquid fuel

06.08.2020 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>