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St. Jude Scientists Discover a New Mechanism Controlling Neuronal Migration
Date:7/15/2009

Understanding how neurons migrate to their proper place during brain development will offer insights into how malfunctions in the machinery cause epilepsy and mental retardation

MEMPHIS, Tenn., July 15 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The molecular machinery that helps brain cells migrate to their correct place in the developing brain has been identified by scientists at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. The finding offers new insight into the forces that drive brain organization in developing fetuses and children during their first years. Disruption of this brain-patterning machinery can cause epilepsy and mental retardation and understanding its function could give new insight into such disorders.

Led by David Solecki, Ph.D., an assistant member in the St. Jude Department of Developmental Neurobiology, the researchers published their findings in the July 16 issue of the journal Neuron.

In the experiments, the researchers sought to understand the biological machinery powering a process called glial-guided neuronal migration. Glial cells in the brain support and guide neurons, which make up the brain's wiring. During brain development, neurons are born in germinal zones at some distance from where they must ultimately land in order to form brain structures and integrate into the brain's circuitry.

"Glial cells produce very thin fibers, and neurons in essence walk a tightrope along these fibers in moving from these germinal zones to their final position," Solecki said. In earlier work, Solecki and his colleagues identified a control molecule called Par6 alpha that regulates this migration. Other researchers had produced evidence that a molecular motor called Myosin II might power the migration. Myosins are proteins that use chemical energy to create contractions by moving along filamental proteins called actins--like a train moves along a railroad tr
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SOURCE St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
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