Navigation Links
Specific brain protein required for nerve cell connections to form and function
Date:9/5/2007

CHAPEL HILL Neurons, or nerve cells, communicate with each other through contact points called synapses. When these connections are damaged, communication breaks down, causing the messages that would normally help our feet push our bike pedals or our mind locate our car keys to fall short.

Now scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine have shown that a protein called neurexin is required for these nerve cell connections to form and function correctly.

The discovery, made in Drosophila fruit flies may lead to advances in understanding autism spectrum disorders, as recently, human neurexins have been identified as a genetic risk factor for autism.

"This finding now gives us the opportunity to see what job neurexin performs within the cell, so that we can gain a better insight into what can go wrong in the nervous system when neurexin function is lost said Dr. Manzoor Bhat, associate professor of cell and molecular physiology in the UNC School of Medicine and senior author of the study.

The study, published online September 6, 2007, in the journal Neuron, is the first to successfully demonstrate in a Drosophila model the consequences that mutating this important protein may have on synapses.

The research was supported in part by grants from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and the National Institute of Mental Health and funds from the state of North Carolina.

During the last decade, scientists have learned that neurexins are integral to the transmission of chemical signals within the nervous system. Neurexins interact with binding partners called neuroligins to link neighboring nerve cells together so that signals can be sent and received correctly.

Previous attempts to study these proteins in animal models have been challenging. In vertebrates such as mice, three different genes code for the production of certain neurexin proteins. Deleting just one of these genes causes no adverse effects in mouse models, while removing all three is fatal. But fruit flies have only one gene for neurexin, and when Bhat and colleagues deleted the gene, the flies survived barely.

"Knocking out neurexin basically resulted in a fly with defective nervous system said Bhat, also a member of the UNC Neuroscience Center and the UNC Neurodevelopmental Disorders Research Center.

First of all, the mutated fruit flies had trouble moving around. When the researchers examined the synapses in these flies, they found that half of them were gone. The synapses that remained were deformed, causing them to send out less chemical signals. The researchers, led by Jingjun Li, a graduate student in neurobiology in the UNC School of Medicine, concluded that neurexin is required for the growth of synapses, for the maintenance of their structure and for their function.

Currently, Bhat and other scientists are working to identify the proteins that neurexin binds to, how they interact, and what sequence of events ultimately results in the organization of synapses within nerve cells. The hope is that such studies in Drosophila will one day clarify the role neurexin plays in learning and memory, ultimately leading to a better understanding of how defects in this protein can lead to human disorders such as autism, Bhat said.


'/>"/>

Contact: Les Lang
llang@med.unc.edu
919-843-9687
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Products containing specific probes for detecting alternative splice forms protected
2. Scientists generate patient-specific stem cells, Science study says
3. Identification of specific genes predicts which patients will respond to Hepatitis C treatment
4. Eating, body weight regulated by specific neurons
5. Tool developed to silence genes in specific tissues using RNAi
6. Gene-specific Ebola therapies protect non-human primates from lethal disease
7. Unique dual target specificity of kinase inhibitor key for success against cancer
8. Serotonin, acting in a specific brain region, promotes sleep in fruit flies
9. A new male-specific gene in algae unveils an origin of male and female
10. Scientists identify specific enzymes that make meningitis hard to fight
11. Sun exposure early in life linked to specific skin cancer gene mutation
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:5/9/2016)... 9, 2016 Elevay is currently ... expanding freedom for high net worth professionals seeking travel ... globally connected world, there is still no substitute for ... duplicate sealing your deal with a firm handshake. This ... taking advantage of citizenship via investment programs like those ...
(Date:4/28/2016)... and BANGALORE, India , April 28, ... Systems, a product subsidiary of Infosys (NYSE: INFY ... announced a global partnership that will provide end ... use mobile banking and payment services.      (Logo: ... key innovation area for financial services, but it also plays ...
(Date:4/26/2016)... and LONDON , ... Finacle, part of EdgeVerve Systems, a product subsidiary ... Onegini today announced a partnership to integrate the ...      (Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20151104/283829LOGO ) ... provide their customers enhanced security to access and ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/27/2016)... 2016  Global demand for enzymes is forecast ... to $7.2 billion.  This market includes enzymes used ... biofuel production, animal feed, and other markets) and ... Food and beverages will remain the largest market ... of products containing enzymes in developing regions.  These ...
(Date:6/27/2016)... ... June 27, 2016 , ... Newly ... technologies, services and solutions to the healthcare market. The company's primary focus is ... manufacturing, sales and marketing strategies that are necessary to help companies efficiently bring ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... , June 24, 2016 Epic ... sensitively detects cancers susceptible to PARP inhibitors by ... tumor cells (CTCs). The new test has already ... therapeutics in multiple cancer types. Over ... DNA damage response pathways, including PARP, ATM, ATR, ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... , June 23, 2016   Boston ... of novel compounds designed to target cancer stemness ... has been granted Orphan Drug Designation from the ... treatment of gastric cancer, including gastroesophageal junction (GEJ) ... inhibitor designed to inhibit cancer stemness pathways by ...
Breaking Biology Technology: