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Syracuse University scientists discover new hitch to link nerve cell motors to their cargo
Date:5/25/2011

With every bodily movementfrom the blink of an eye to running a marathonnerve cells transmit signals to muscle cells. To do that, nerve cells rely on tiny molecular motors to transport chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) that excite muscles cells into action. It's a complex process, which scientists are still trying to understand. A new study by Syracuse University researchers has uncovered an important piece of the puzzle.

The study, published in the April 22 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC), describes the discovery of a protein that is involved in the motor-cargo mechanism that carries neurotransmitter chemicals to the nerve cell's synapse. The synapse is the junction at which electrical and chemical signals are transmitted from one nerve cell to another cell. JBC is the premier journal of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

The discovery was made by a team of scientists led by George M. Langford, a cell biologist and dean of SU's College of Arts and Sciences. Team members included research associate Torsten Wollert and assistant professor Michael Cosgrove in the Department of Biology; and collaborators from Dartmouth College, the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, and the McLaughlin Research Institute. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

"The transportation of neurotransmitter vesicles to the synapse is critical to nerve cell function," Langford says. "We want to better understand all of the molecular components involved in the transport process. We have discovered another 'hitch' that links the motor to its cargo."

New insights into how the chemicals are transported could result in new kinds of drug therapy for such illnesses as Parkinson's disease, depression and injuries to the neuromuscular system, Langford says.

Neurotransmitters, produced by nerve cells, are used to signal cells in every organ system in the bodyfrom muscles to metabolism.
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Contact: Judy Holmes
jlholmes@syr.edu
315-443-8085
Syracuse University
Source:Eurekalert

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