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Hopkins researchers discover how brain protein might control memory

ing things in and out of cells is critical for normal brain cell function. We were extremely excited that Arc might somehow be involved in this transport because it links transport to memory formation," says Worley. "This brings us one step closer to understanding how the brain saves memories."

According to Worley, memories form when nerve cells connect and "talk" to other nerve cells. It's thought that the stronger these connections are, the stronger the memory.

Like the childhood game called Telephone, where one person taps her neighbor and whispers a message that is passed on in similar fashion to the next person in line, nerve cells connect and "talk" to each other by relaying messages - usually by passing small chemicals - from cell to cell.

When nerve cells connect with each other in the brain, one cell releases chemicals into the space between it and its neighbor. The neighboring cell has protein receptors on its surface that capture the released chemicals. The cell that captures these chemicals then swallows up the receptor-chemical complexes, removing the receptors from the cell's surface. The more receptors present, according to Worley, the stronger the connection between the two cells. New receptors constantly replace the swallowed-up ones.

The two proteins that came out of the Arc fishing expedition - known as dynamin and endophilin - previously were known to be critical for this swallowing action. And, it turns out that Arc controls these two proteins and therefore controls how often cells swallow receptors from their surfaces.

When the researchers altered Arc so that it was unable to bind these two proteins, cells were unable to "swallow" and wound up with more receptors than normal on their surfaces. Adding more Arc to cells caused the opposite to happen; the cells hyperactively swallowed up too many receptors, leaving few at the surface.

Unfortunately, it's possible to over-excite a cell
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Source:Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions


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