'Stoned' gene key to maintaining normal brain function

July 6, 2012
'Stoned' gene key to maintaining normal brain function
Dr Stephen Royle: “This research is another step towards fully understanding the complexities of the human brain.”

(Medical Xpress) -- Scientists at the University of Liverpool have found that a protein produced by a gene identified in fruitflies, is responsible for communication between nerve cells in the brain.

The ‘stoned’ gene was discovered in fruitflies by scientists in the 1970s. When this gene was mutated, the flies had problems walking and flying, giving rise to the term ‘stoned’ gene. The same gene was found in mammals some years later, but until now scientists have not known precisely what this gene is responsible for and why it causes problems with physical functions when it mutates.

‘Packets of chemicals’

Scientists at Liverpool have found that the protein the gene expresses in mammals, called stonin2, is responsible for retrieving ‘packets’ of chemicals that in the brain release in order to communicate with each other.  The inability of the gene to express this protein in the fruitfly study, suggests why the insect appeared not to be able to walk or fly normally.

The team used advanced techniques to inactivate stonin2 for short and long periods of time in animal cells grown in the laboratory. The cells used where from an area of the brain associated with learning and memory.  They showed that without stonin2 the nerve cells could not retrieve the ‘packets’ needed to transport the chemicals required for communications between nerve cells.

Dr Stephen Royle, from the University’s Institute of Translational Medicine, explains: “Nerve cells in the brain communicate by releasing ‘packets’ of chemicals.  These ‘packets’ must be retrieved and refilled with chemicals so that they can be used once again. This recycling programme is very important for nerve cells to keep communicating with each other. 

“We have shown that a protein called stonin 2 is needed for the packets to be retrieved. There is currently no evidence to suggest that the gene which expresses this is mutated in human disease, but any failure in its function would be disastrous.  The research is another step towards fully understanding the complexities of the human .”

The research is published in the journal, Current Biology.

More information: www.cell.com/current-biology/abstract/S0960-9822(12)00635-5

Related Stories

Scientists expose important new weak spot in cancer cells

December 5, 2011

(Medical Xpress) -- Cancer Research UK scientists have discovered that cancer cells can ‘bag up and bin’ a toxic protein to cheat death – revealing a new Achilles heel in cancer cells that could be targeted ...

Brain cells created from patients' skin cells

February 7, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- Cambridge scientists have, for the first time, created cerebral cortex cells – those that make up the brain’s grey matter – from a small sample of human skin.  The researchers’ ...

Prostate cancer early warning protein detected

May 31, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- Scientists at the University have discovered a protein, only present in prostate cancer cells, that could be used as a marker to detect early signs of the disease.     

Recommended for you

Crystal clear images uncover secrets of hormone receptors

July 31, 2015

Many hormones and neurotransmitters work by binding to receptors on a cell's exterior surface. This activates receptors causing them to twist, turn and spark chemical reactions inside cells. NIH scientists used atomic level ...

A cheaper, high-performance prosthetic knee

July 30, 2015

In the last two decades, prosthetic limb technology has grown by leaps and bounds. Today, the most advanced prostheses incorporate microprocessors that work with onboard gyroscopes, accelerometers, and hydraulics to enable ...

Flow means 'go' for proper lymph system development

July 27, 2015

The lymphatic system provides a slow flow of fluid from our organs and tissues into the bloodstream. It returns fluid and proteins that leak from blood vessels, provides passage for immune and inflammatory cells from the ...

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.