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How the brain stays receptive
Date:1/9/2013

The channel protein Pannexin1 keeps nerve cells flexible and thus the brain receptive for new knowledge. Together with colleagues from Canada and the U.S., researchers at the Ruhr-Universitt Bochum led by the junior professor Dr. Nora Prochnow from the Department of Molecular Brain Research describe these results in PLoS ONE. In the study, mice comprising no Pannexin1 in memory-related brain structures displayed symptoms similar to autism. Their nerve cells lacked synaptic plasticity, i.e. the ability to form new synaptic contacts or give up old contacts based on the level of usage.

Pannexins are abundant in the central nervous system of vertebrates

Pannexins traverse the cell membrane of vertebrate animals and form large pored channels. They are permeable for certain signalling molecules, such as the energy storage molecule ATP (adenosine triphosphate). The best known representative is Pannexin1, which occurs in abundance in the brain and spinal cord and among others in the hippocampus - a brain structure that is critical for long-term memory. Malfunctions of the pannexins play a role in the development of epilepsy and strokes.

No more scope in long-term potentiation

The research team studied mice in which the gene for Pannexin1 was lacking. Using cell recordings carried out on isolated brain sections, they analysed the long-term potentiation in the hippocampus. Long-term potentiation usually occurs when new memory content is built - the contacts between nerve cells are strengthened; they communicate more effectively with each other. In mice without Pannexin1, the long-term potentiation occurred earlier and was more prolonged than in mice with Pannexin1. "It looks at first glance like a gain in long-term memory", says Nora Prochnow. "But precise analysis shows that there was no more scope for upward development." Due to the lack of Pannexin1, the cell communication in general was increased to such an ext
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Contact: Nora Prochnow
Nora.Prochnow@ruhr-uni-bochum.de
49-234-322-4406
Ruhr-University Bochum
Source:Eurekalert

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