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Helping the brain's messengers get from A to B
Date:6/10/2010

NEW YORK (June 10, 2010) -- In what has been hailed as a breakthrough, scientists from Columbia University Medical Center and Weill Cornell Medical College have outlined the molecular mechanism of membrane transport. The research shows how a protein transforms its shape to transport substances across the cell membrane in order to regulate transmission of the brain's messages across the synaptic gap from one neuron to another.

Because widely used medications for depression modulate this transport process by binding to the transporters, the new findings help explain how the medications work, and the way in which stimulants like cocaine and amphetamine produce their effects. This new understanding should also prove useful in the development of more targeted medication therapies for anxiety, depression, schizophrenia and substance abuse.

The researchers looked at transporter proteins in the family of Na+ symporters, which remove neurotransmitters from the synapse in a process called reuptake that is essential to the proper function of neural transmission. Antidepressants such as Prozac and Zoloft, which are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and cocaine interfere with the reuptake mechanism and alter the normal exchange process between cells.

The paper describing the new findings was published in the May 13 issue of Nature and was lauded as a significant contribution to the understanding of the dynamics of the transport cycle in the journal's News & Views section. The reviewers note that until now biologists have been unable to view transporters on a single-molecule detail, but the new research "lifts the curtain and shines a spotlight onto some of the choreography" of membrane transport. In this spotlight, the new research illuminates the pathway of transported molecules revealing how transporter proteins escort ions and molecules through membranes by forming passageways in a manner the researchers liken to gate
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Contact: Andrew Klein
ank2017@med.cornell.edu
212-821-0560
New York- Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center/Weill Cornell Medical College
Source:Eurekalert

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