An understanding of exactly how the brain controls breathing is fundamental to the treatment of respiratory disorders. We know that breathing is an automatic rhythmic process that persists without conscious effort whether we are awake or asleep, but the question that has intrigued many scientists for well over 100 years is what maintains this almost fail safe vital rhythm throughout life?
Experimental Physiology editor Julian Paton invited two world renowned scientists Dr. Guyenet from the University of Charlottesville and Dr. Richerson from Yale University, to use the journal as a forum to discuss the issue and attempt to resolve their differences in opinion.
Both authors agree that the respiratory rhythm requires specialised nerve cells (central chemoreceptors) to power the rhythm, but the issue highly debated by Guyenet and Richerson is the precise location and cell types involved. Guyenet proposes that these nerve cells are located in a ventral area of the brainstem (the retrofacial region) and loaded with a transmitter substance called glutamate. Their close proximity to the ventral surface of the brain allows them to sense and react to changes in the pH of the cerebrospinal fluid; this is deemed an essential property of a central chemoreceptor. Richerson, on the other hand, stipulates that central chemoreceptors are found close to the midline blood vessels of the brainstem allowing them to taste the pH of the blood. His cells do not contain glutamate but a substance called serotonin.
Lucy Mansfield | EurekAlert!
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Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.
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