UC Irvine researchers have found that a protein best known for building connections between nerve cells and muscle also plays a role in controlling brain cell activity. The finding points to possible therapeutic applications in the development of new drugs for treatment of epilepsy and neurodegenerative disorders.
Martin Smith, professor of anatomy and neurobiology in the School of Medicine, and his UCI colleagues discovered that agrin -- a protein that directs synapse formation between nerve and muscle cells -- can also inhibit the function of "pumps" that control sodium and potassium levels within cells.
These pumps, called sodium-potassium ATPases -- or sodium pumps, for short -- are especially important in electrically excitable cells, where they provide the basis for electrical impulses, known as action potentials, which are responsible for muscle contraction and signaling between nerve cells in the brain. They do this by pumping sodium out of a cell and pumping potassium in, setting up an electrochemical gradient -- in a sense, turning the cell into a battery.
If this activity isn’t properly moderated, uncontrollable electrical impulses can be triggered, which is one of the cellular mechanisms behind an epileptic seizure, for instance.
This is where agrin comes into action. The UCI researchers observed in laboratory tests that agrin controls the excitability of nerve cells in the brain by regulating sodium pump activity. Adding agrin caused nerve cells to fire electrical impulses uncontrollably. In turn, the researchers found that they could block these electrical impulses by introducing small fragments of agrin, which prevented the full agrin proteins from binding their sites on the sodium pump molecules and initiating action potentials.
"The ability of agrin to modulate nerve cell excitability suggests that the agrin-sodium pump interactions can be exploited as a novel therapeutic target for epilepsy and other brain disorders," Smith said.
Agrin proteins are also expressed in heart tissue, and Smith notes that sodium pump inhibitors, such as digoxin, are commonly used to treat congestive heart failure. Agrin may, therefore, have therapeutic value for the treatment of diseases affecting tissues and organs outside of the brain.
NYSCF researchers develop novel bioengineering technique for personalized bone grafts
18.07.2018 | New York Stem Cell Foundation
Pollen taxi for bacteria
18.07.2018 | Technische Universität München
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
18.07.2018 | Life Sciences
18.07.2018 | Materials Sciences
18.07.2018 | Health and Medicine