Leuven, Belgium Our brain consists of billions of cells that continually transmit signals to each other. This dynamic process − which enables us to learn, remember, and so much more − works only when the brain cells make contact correctly, or, in other words, when there is a good 'synapse'. An essential element in this process is a controlled protein production along with the synapse. VIB researchers connected to the Center for Human Genetics (K.U.Leuven) are now discovering how the Fragile X protein (FMRP) ensures that protein production is controlled at synapse and regulated by brain activity. Their findings are being published in the authoritative scientific journal Cell.
Fathoming the brain
Our 'gray matter' has yet to divulge all its secrets. For example, we do not yet fully understand how we are able to learn and remember things. We do know that dendrites and axons − the offshoots of brain cells − play a crucial role by making contact with each other in so-called synapses, through which signals are transmitted between different brain cells. Moreover, for properly functioning brain activity at a synapse, the right proteins must be present in the right concentrations. It has been known for some time that the brain's cells are able to produce proteins directly at the place where they are needed. But exactly how the subtle regulation of this process works is still to be discovered.
FMRP: controlling protein production
Claudia Bagni (VIB, K.U.Leuven, University of Rome Tor Vergata) has been studying the FMRP protein for years now. The absence of FMRP leads to the Fragile X syndrome, a mental handicap afflicting a thousand Belgians. In this particular syndrome, the synapses are not well-formed. So, it is no surprise that FMRP plays an important role in the development and functioning of the brain. The researchers have already shown that FMRP suppresses protein production, but how has remai
|Contact: Sooike Stoops|
VIB (the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology)