Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientists pinpoint molecules that generate synapses

26.07.2004


Researchers have found a family of molecules that play a key role in the formation of synapses, the junctions that link brain cells, called neurons, to each other. The molecules initiate the development of these connections, forming the circuitry of the mammalian nervous system.

Scientists from Harvard University and Washington University in St. Louis describe the findings in the July 23 issue of the journal Cell.

"This is very basic work, far from any clinical applications at this point," says author Joshua R. Sanes, professor of molecular and cellular biology in Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences. "Still, one can think of lots of cases, from normal aging to mental retardation to neurodegenerative disease, where making more synapses or preventing synapse loss might be beneficial. This finding may eventually point the way to new therapies."



The work, using mice as a model, was conducted while Sanes and co-author Hisashi Umemori were at Washington University.

Synapses are the sites where neurons communicate with each other to form the large and complex information-processing networks of the brain. These networks are highly modifiable because the synapses between neurons are plastic, leading to changes that underlie learning. Synapses are also the targets of nearly all psychoactive drugs, including both prescription medications and illicit drugs.

"We knew that the apparatus for sending and receiving chemical and electrical signals was concentrated at the synapses where neurons connect with each other," Sanes says. "We wanted to determine how these special sites form."

As the early nervous system develops into a dense tangle of neurons, synapses sprout at places where neurons grow close to one another. In order for a synapse to actually form, Sanes and Umemori believed, certain key molecules would have to flow across the gap between two neurons to commence development of a synapse linking them.

Umemori spent several years scanning neurons in culture for these pioneering molecules that set in motion the linking of neural networks. In the end he fingered a molecule called FGF22, along with several of its close relatives, as key to setting in motion the construction of synapses. Umemori confirmed FGF22’s role by showing that mice in which FGF22 was inactivated failed to grow synapses; conversely, when added to neurons in culture, the molecule stimulates synapse formation.

Sanes and Umemori determined that FGF22 works to build synapses in the brain’s cerebellum, a critical center for motor control; it’s unclear whether it also serves as a signal to foster synapse growth between neurons in other areas. Two other members of the FGF family, FGF7 and FGF10, are very similar in structure, and may play similar roles in other areas of the nervous system.

Steve Bradt | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.harvard.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Solving the efficiency of Gram-negative bacteria
22.03.2019 | Harvard University

nachricht Bacteria bide their time when antibiotics attack
22.03.2019 | Rice University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: The taming of the light screw

DESY and MPSD scientists create high-order harmonics from solids with controlled polarization states, taking advantage of both crystal symmetry and attosecond electronic dynamics. The newly demonstrated technique might find intriguing applications in petahertz electronics and for spectroscopic studies of novel quantum materials.

The nonlinear process of high-order harmonic generation (HHG) in gases is one of the cornerstones of attosecond science (an attosecond is a billionth of a...

Im Focus: Magnetic micro-boats

Nano- and microtechnology are promising candidates not only for medical applications such as drug delivery but also for the creation of little robots or flexible integrated sensors. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) have created magnetic microparticles, with a newly developed method, that could pave the way for building micro-motors or guiding drugs in the human body to a target, like a tumor. The preparation of such structures as well as their remote-control can be regulated using magnetic fields and therefore can find application in an array of domains.

The magnetic properties of a material control how this material responds to the presence of a magnetic field. Iron oxide is the main component of rust but also...

Im Focus: Self-healing coating made of corn starch makes small scratches disappear through heat

Due to the special arrangement of its molecules, a new coating made of corn starch is able to repair small scratches by itself through heat: The cross-linking via ring-shaped molecules makes the material mobile, so that it compensates for the scratches and these disappear again.

Superficial micro-scratches on the car body or on other high-gloss surfaces are harmless, but annoying. Especially in the luxury segment such surfaces are...

Im Focus: Stellar cartography

The Potsdam Echelle Polarimetric and Spectroscopic Instrument (PEPSI) at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona released its first image of the surface magnetic field of another star. In a paper in the European journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, the PEPSI team presents a Zeeman- Doppler-Image of the surface of the magnetically active star II Pegasi.

A special technique allows astronomers to resolve the surfaces of faraway stars. Those are otherwise only seen as point sources, even in the largest telescopes...

Im Focus: Heading towards a tsunami of light

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have proposed a way to create a completely new source of radiation. Ultra-intense light pulses consist of the motion of a single wave and can be described as a tsunami of light. The strong wave can be used to study interactions between matter and light in a unique way. Their research is now published in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.

"This source of radiation lets us look at reality through a new angle - it is like twisting a mirror and discovering something completely different," says...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

International Modelica Conference with 330 visitors from 21 countries at OTH Regensburg

11.03.2019 | Event News

Selection Completed: 580 Young Scientists from 88 Countries at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

01.03.2019 | Event News

LightMAT 2019 – 3rd International Conference on Light Materials – Science and Technology

28.02.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Solving the efficiency of Gram-negative bacteria

22.03.2019 | Life Sciences

Bacteria bide their time when antibiotics attack

22.03.2019 | Life Sciences

Open source software helps researchers extract key insights from huge sensor datasets

22.03.2019 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>