Posted: Nov 15, 2021 14:22 GMT
Disruption of these protein groups can cause serious neurological disorders.
A team of researchers from the University of California at Davis (USA) claims to have deciphered the function of mysterious groups of proteins found in neurons in the hippocampus, the region of the brain that plays an important role in learning and memory.
It was known that the alteration of these groups can cause severe neurological disorders, but it was not clear why. But now those protein clusters have been found to be “hot spots” of calcium signaling, which play a crucial role in the activation of genetic transcription, communicates this educational institution.
Transcription allows the neuron’s DNA to turn into strands of RNA, which are then used for the formation of proteins necessary for cells. The authors of the new study, recently published in the journal PNAS, analyzed the groups of proteins in mice and they noted that there are between 50 and 100 of those sets in a single neuron.
Fundamental to learning and memory
These groups are made up of a protein, which lets through potassium ions through membranes (potassium channel), and through calcium channels. Calcium channels allow this chemical element to filter into cells, where it triggers various physiological reactions. “We have known for a long time about the role of other types of ion channel groups, for example those in synapses. But it was not known what role these much larger structures of the cell body play in the neuron physiology“said Professor James Trimmer, a co-author of the study.
The scientists deciphered the function of the “hot spots” by separating the calcium channel from the potassium channel clusters. “A key finding was that this process blocked calcium-activated gene expression. This suggests that the association between calcium and potassium channels in these groups it is important for neuronal function “, clarified Nicholas Vierra, lead author of the research.
As a result of this separation, the process known as excitation-transcription coupling, which links changes in neuronal electrical activity with changes in gene expression. “We found that if you interfere with the calcium signaling proteins located in these unusual clusters, you basically remove the excitation-transcription connection, which is fundamental to learning, memory, and other forms of neural plasticity, “Trimmer said.
The scientists hope their findings will lead to further research on the role of signal transmission in brain function, and to help in the development of new types of therapies.
If you liked it, share it with your friends!