An international team of scientists have taken an important step towards gaining a better understanding of the brain’s inner workings, including the molecular processes that could play a role in neurological disorders such as epilepsy.
The research team has, for the first time, optically tracked the movements of the neurotransmitter glycine, which is a signalling molecule in the brain, with a new biosensor.
Associate Professor Colin Jackson from The Australian National University (ANU) said the new study would help scientists gain more insight into many neurological diseases that occur due to dysfunctional neurotransmitter activity.
“To understand how the brain works at the molecular level and how things can go wrong, we need to understand the release and uptake of neurotransmitters,” said Associate Professor Jackson from the ANU Research School of Chemistry.
“Neurotransmitters are too small to see directly, so we made a new biosensor for them.”
The research team designed and made a protein to bind glycine and fused it with two other proteins that are fluorescent.
Glycine is a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system, including in the cortex, spinal cord, brainstem and retina, that plays a role in neuronal communication and learning, and also in processing motor and sensory information that permits movement, vision and hearing.
“When the binding protein binds to glycine, the fluorescent proteins change their relative positions and we see a change in fluoresce that we can monitor with a special microscope,” Associate Professor Jackson said.
“There was previously no way to visualise the activity of glycine in brain tissue – we can do this now, which is exciting.
“In the future, we want to make sensors for other neurotransmitters and to use our sensor to look at the molecular basis of certain neurological diseases.”
The research was funded by the Human Frontiers in Science Fellowship Program, which funded Associate Professor Jackson’s team at ANU and researchers at the University of Bonn in Germany and the Institute of Science and Technology in Austria.
Professor Christian Henneberger’s team at the University of Bonn in Germany assisted in design of the sensor and developed the techniques to use the new biosensor in living brain tissue. This enabled them to see how glycine levels change in real time in response to neuronal activity and how glycine is distributed in living brain tissue.
“The sensor allowed us to directly test important hypotheses about glycine signalling. We also discovered that, unexpectedly, glycine levels change during neuronal activity that induces learning-related synaptic changes,” Professor Henneberger said.
“We are following up our study by further exploring the mechanisms that govern glycine’s influence on information processing in the healthy brain and also in disease models.”
The study will be published in the journal Nature Chemical Biology in September and is already available online:
Publication: William H. Zhang, Michel K. Herde, Joshua A. Mitchell, Jason H. Whitfield, Andreas B. Wulff, Vanessa Vongsouthi, Inmaculada Sanchez-Romero, Polina E. Gulakova, Daniel Minge, Björn Breithausen, Susanne Schoch, Harald Janovjak, Colin J. Jackson & Christian Henneberger: Monitoring hippocampal glycine with the computationally designed optical sensor GlyFS; Nature Chemical Biology; DOI: 10.1038/s41589-018-0108-2
Professor Christian Henneberger
Institute of Cellular Neuroscience
University of Bonn
Professor Colin Jackson
Research School of Chemistry
ANU College of Science / Australia
Phone: +61 2 6125 8325
Dr. Inka Väth | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Inselspital: Fewer CT scans needed after cerebral bleeding
20.03.2019 | Universitätsspital Bern
Building blocks for new medications: the University of Graz is seeking a technology partner
19.03.2019 | Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz
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...
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...
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...
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...
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...
11.03.2019 | Event News
01.03.2019 | Event News
28.02.2019 | Event News
22.03.2019 | Life Sciences
22.03.2019 | Life Sciences
22.03.2019 | Information Technology