Researchers have identified a gene with a key role in neuronal survival

April 16, 2012

Spanish researchers at the Institute of Neurosciences at Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (INc-UAB) identified the fundamental role played by the Nurr1 gene in neuron survival associated with synaptic activity. The discovery, published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, allows scientists to study a new target that could help to understand the relationship between alterations in neural connections, which are known to cause early cognitive deficit, and the neurodegeneration characteristic of Alzheimer's disease.

During the development of the brain, hundreds of thousands of neurons die if they do not establish the necessary connections - synapses - with their cell targets. The process of regulating neuron survival and death is fundamental in the organization of forming the adult brain.

The effect of synaptic activity on the survival of these neurons however is not limited to the developing brain; it is also fundamental in the . The loss of synaptic activity, which results into the characteristic cognitive impairment seen in such as Alzheimer's, precedes and contributes to the neuronal death observed in these pathologies. Despite the importance of this process, there is no exact knowledge of the molecular mechanisms implied in neuron survival generated by this activity.

In the study directed by José Rodríguez Álvarez, researcher of the UAB Institute of Neurosciences, scientists determined the relation of a gene and the neuron survival regulated by synaptic activity. Through a massive analysis of gene activity, researchers identified several dozens of genes whose functions are regulated by this activity. Of all the genes, the research demonstrates the key role played by the Nurr1 gene in the survival of neurons. Among the discoveries made, researchers observed that when the activity of this gene is silenced, the neuron dies. The research concludes that this identification provides a better understanding into the relationship between early synaptic deficits and the posterior neurodegeneration observed in Alzheimer's disease.

Related Stories

A mechanism to improve learning and memory

February 21, 2012

There are a number of drugs and experimental conditions that can block cognitive function and impair learning and memory. However, scientists have recently shown that some drugs can actually improve cognitive function, which ...

Recommended for you

Take a trip through the brain (w/ Video)

July 30, 2015

A new imaging tool developed by Boston scientists could do for the brain what the telescope did for space exploration. In the first demonstration of how the technology works, published July 30 in the journal Cell, the researchers ...

Surprising similarity in fly and mouse motion vision

July 29, 2015

At first glance, the eyes of mammals and those of insects do not seem to have much in common. However, a comparison of the neural circuits for detecting motion shows surprising parallels between flies and mice. Scientists ...

Research grasps how the brain plans gripping motion

July 28, 2015

With the results of a new study, neuroscientists have a firmer grasp on the way the brain formulates commands for the hand to grip an object. The advance could lead to improvements in future brain-computer interfaces that ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.