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A*STAR scientists discover protein's role in human memory and learning functions
Date:2/19/2014

1. Scientists at A*STAR's Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB) have identified the precise role of the protein, SNX27, in the pathway leading to memory and learning impairment. The study broadens the understanding of the brain's memory function and could be used to explain defects in the cognitive development of those with Down's syndrome. The newly established knowledge could potentially facilitate exploration of strategies to improve memory and learning abilities in Down's syndrome.

2. Down's syndrome is a genetic condition characterized by the presence of an additional copy of chromosome 21. About one in eight hundred new-borns is diagnosed with Down's syndrome. It is a condition that leads to impairments in both cognitive ability and physical growth that range from mild to moderate developmental disabilities. Yet, there is still no treatment for it.

3. In an earlier study published in Nature Medicine, an international team of scientists discovered that the additional copy of chromosome 21 in Down's syndrome reduces the production of SNX27 in the brain and results in synaptic dysfunction. Synapse, a structure that permits nerve cells to pass chemical signals to each other, is known to have an important role in memory formation and its dysfunction could result in impairment. By re-introducing SNX27 into the brain, memory could be restored hence suggesting that SNX27 is an essential protein for memory and learning.

4. The protein's role in the pathway leading to memory impairment, however, remained unclear until scientists from IMCB utilised live-cell imaging techniques to elucidate the mechanism of memory impairment and illustrated how SNX27 attributes to synaptic dysfunction. The scientists observed that transmission of chemical signals between the nerve cells are facilitated by AMPA-receptors and the activity occurs on the brain cell surface. As SNX27 plays an important role in shuttling the AMPA-receptor
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Contact: Tan Yun Yun
tan_yun_yun@a-star.edu.sg
656-826-6273
Biomedical Sciences Institutes (BMSI)
Source:Eurekalert

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