Recent findings in basic biomedical research might pave the way towards novel therapies
Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing in Cologne and University College London have now unearthed the way in which a specific genetic mutation leads to neuronal damage in two serious afflictions, that might even occur at once in a single person: Until now, it has been unknown what causes amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal dementia.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a devastating type of motor neuron disease that causes rapid weakening of muscles and death. Frontotemporal dementia is the second most common cause of dementia in people under 65. It causes distressing symptoms, including changes in personality and behaviour and problems with language and thinking.
The DNA of affected patients contains a mutation: There are thousands of repeats of a specific short segment of genetic material, whereas in unaffected persons, there are only up to thirty copies of this segment. This specific genetic alteration is the cause of illness in around eight percent of patients with this type of motor neuron disease or dementia. Eight percent is a relatively high proportion. For instance, less than one percent of the causes in Alzheimer’s disease are genetic.
Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing, the Institute of Neurology and Institute for Healthy Ageing at University College London have now discovered that the repeats in the mutant gene cause neurodegeneration by making toxic proteins.
Fruitflies can undergo neurodegeneration in a similar way to humans
Previously it was thought that the problem could be a consequence of disruption of the gene by the inserted repeats. Another theory was that the repeats produce a different type of toxic RNA molecule. It now turns out that the repeats in the mutant gene can produce a variety of proteins and that two of these are extremely toxic to nerve cells. Both are highly enriched in arginine, an amino acid.
To pinpoint the role of the toxic proteins, the researchers produced artificial repeat segments that could produce potentially toxic RNA and protein or only toxic RNA or only protein. They then introduced them into the nerve cells of fruit flies, which can undergo neurodegeneration in a similar way to humans. Repeat segments that made both RNA and protein caused striking neurodegeneration and reduced the lifespan of the flies, showing that they are a good organism in which to study these diseases. Interestingly, the protein-only repeat segments caused just as bad a neurodegeneration. In contrast, the RNA-only segments were harmless, pinpointing the role of toxic proteins in these diseases. The proteins that contained arginine were the most toxic.
These findings have uncovered a new toxic role for arginine-containing proteins in motor neuron disease and dementia, which helps in the development of drugs to fight these serious afflictions.
C9orf72 repeat expansions cause neurodegeneration in Drosophila through arginine-rich proteins.
Sarah Mizielinska, Sebastian Grönke, Teresa Niccoli, Charlotte E. Ridler, Emma L. Clayton, Anny Devoy, Thomas Moens, Frances E. Norona, Ione O.C. Woollacott, Julian Pietrzyk, Karen Cleverley, Andrew J. Nicoll, Stuart Pickering-Brown, Jacqueline Dols, Melissa Cabecinha, Oliver Hendrich, Pietro Fratta, Elizabeth M.C. Fisher, Linda Partridge, and Adrian M. Isaacs.
Science Express, August 7, 2014.
Sabine Dzuck | Max-Planck-Institut
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