A team of neuroscientists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) has demonstrated for the first time in living animals that insulin receptors in the brain can initiate signaling that regulates both the structure and function of neural circuits.
The finding suggests a significant role for this class of receptors and perhaps for insulin, not only in brain development, but also in cognition and in pathological processes in which cognition is impaired, as in Alzheimer's disease, for example.
Insulin receptors on the surface of cells throughout the body have long been understood to play a central role in controlling metabolism through the regulation of glucose. When a molecule of insulin, a hormone, "docks" with the receptor, a complex signaling cascade is set in motion inside a cell, culminating in the cell's uptake of insulin.
The Brain Is Not "Insulin-Insensitive" After All
Although insulin receptors are observed in certain parts of the mammalian brain, most scientists, until a few years ago, had assumed the organ was "insulin-insensitive," knowing that glucose could be taken up by brain cells without the involvement of either insulin or insulin receptors.
In recent years, however, it has been shown that the brain is indeed an insulin target, and in cell-culture experiments that insulin receptor signaling in neurons can have an impact on the formation and development of neural circuits. This had never been demonstrated in living organisms until it was shown in experiments performed in the laboratory of CSHL Professor Hollis Cline, Ph.D., and reported this week in the journal Neuron.
These experiments, in Xenopus tadpoles, show that insulin receptor signaling in neurons regulates the maintenance of synapses, contributes to the processing of sensory information and is also involved in adjusting the plasticity of brain circuits in response to experience. The latter function is particularly int
|Contact: Jim Bono|
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory