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Think fast! Rice undergrad unlocks nerve speed secret

also knew there was a chemical brake in the system, something that held the pre-positioned vesicle in check, but poised for release. These new studies clearly show that the brake is a protein called complexin."

Rice's study, which was conducted in McNew's lab, largely by undergraduate Johanna Schaub, involved in vitro experiments on a synthetic and highly controlled complex of membranes and proteins. Via these experiments, Schaub was able to show that SNARE-driven membrane fusion ?the act that opens the door for neurotransmitter to leave the neuronal cell ?was inhibited by complexin.

"By halting fusion partway, complexin essentially shortens the response time for signal transmission," said Schaub, who will begin graduate school at Stanford University in the fall. "The nerve cell can almost instantaneously pass on its information."

McNew said the finding is independently confirmed by work published online June 22 by Science magazine. In that study, Columbia University's James Rothman and colleagues created mutant cells with SNAREs on the outside rather than the inside, and they used the cells to show that complexin could inhibit fusion that would otherwise be expected to proceed.

"Complexin is the brake," McNew said. "It says, 'Stop. Don't go any further until you get the signal from synaptotagmin.'"


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Source:Rice University


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