Revealing Neurons' Complexity
Using their new method Bartfai and Eberwine identified more than 400 receptors active in warm sensitive neurons. About one-third of the receptors are so-called "orphan" receptors, meaning the chemicals they bind to are unknown. The rest were receptors whose ligands (substances they bind to) are knownamong them, the authors found a few surprises.
For example, Bartfai and Eberwine discovered that the receptor responsible for binding insulin is active on warm sensitive neuronssomething no one had previously suspected.
The insulin receptor is known to be involved in regulating a person's metabolism. Follow-up studies by Bartfai's group have now shown that insulin binds to receptors on warm sensitive neurons to decrease their activity, causing an increase in body temperature, or hyperthermia. Thus, insulin is a key regulator for both body metabolism and temperature.
"This study highlights the complexity of these cells by showing us the large number of different RNAs that are present," said Eberwine.
In addition to providing important insights into the complexity of nerve cells, the study has implications for identifying potential drug targets for diseases that currently have few or no treatments.
"We would like to repeat similar studies for key neurons involved in Parkinson's disease and schizophrenia," explained Bartfai. "If we again discover 400 receptors, we could then ask which ones are reasonably selectively expressed in these neurons." Any receptor active primarily in one class of neurons involved in a particular disease process represents a possible target for developing drugs to affect the course of that disease.
|Contact: Mika Ono|
Scripps Research Institute