Montral, December 4, 2013 A team of Montral researchers at the IRCM led by Dr. Nabil G. Seidah, in collaboration with Dr. William C. Wetsel's team at Duke University in the United States, discovered that the protein PC7 plays a critical role in the brain by affecting certain types of cognitive performance such as anxiety, learning and emotional memory. Their results, recently published in the scientific journals Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) and Nature, could have a significant impact on regulating behaviour related to anxiety disorders and trauma.
The scientists found that PC7, the seventh member of the proprotein convertase family responsible for converting inactive proteins into their active states, plays a critical role in specific areas of the brain such as the hippocampus and amygdala, which are important for memory and emotional reactions and are involved in anxiety responses.
"We discovered the family of proprotein convertases in my laboratory and, since 1996, we have been carefully studying its most ancient member, PC7," says Dr. Seidah, Director of the Biochemical Neuroendocrinology research unit at the IRCM. "Initially, we could not find any visible abnormalities in mice lacking this protein. Then, after four years of research on these knockout mice, we found that they had completely lost all anxiety, including the instinctive reaction that occurs in response to a perceived threat to survival."
The results of various behavioural tests in mice lacking PC7 revealed that while spatial memory remained intact, episodic and emotional memories were severely impaired. Episodic memory, the recollection of past events or experiences, can trigger a change in behaviour as a result of an event.
"We examined episodic memory with such tests as the social transmission of food preference (STFP)," explains Dr. Wetsel, Associate Professor at the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences and fir
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Institut de recherches cliniques de Montreal