Lack of coronin 1 protein causes learning deficits and aggressive behavior

Lack of coronin 1 protein causes learning deficits and aggressive behavior
The absence of coronin 1 in neurons results in severe neurobehavioral defects. Coronin 1 (green) in neurons within the amygdala of the brain. Red: neurofilament as neuronal marker; Blue: nuclear stain. Credit: University of Basel, Biozentrum

Learning and memory relies on the proper processing of signals that stimulate neuronal cells within the brain. Researchers at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel, together with an international team of scientists, has uncovered an important role for the protein coronin 1 in cognition and behavior. They found that a lack of coronin 1 in mouse and in man is associated with poor memory, defective learning and aggressive behavior. The results, recently published in PLOS Biology, identify a novel risk factor for neurobehavioral dysfunction and reveal a molecular pathway involved in transferring information within neurons.

Organisms must be able to sense signals from the outside and translate these into biochemical cues in order to adequately respond to their environment. This capability is also required to process information that reaches the brain. Within the brain, stimulation of neurons activates genes that are required, for example for . In collaboration with an international and interdisciplinary team the research group led by Prof. Jean Pieters from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, has now uncovered the role of an evolutionarily conserved protein, called coronin 1, in providing a link between the extracellular stimulus and neuronal activation that ultimately results in efficient learning and memory in both mice and men.

From the immune system to the brain

In earlier work, Pieters' team discovered the protein coronin 1 as being essential for the proper transduction of signals in immune cells. In mice lacking coronin 1 the researchers further investigated the molecular mechanism. Surprisingly, these mice showed aberrant behavior. In particular, mice lacking coronin 1 appeared to be far more aggressive and display extreme grooming activity, an indication of reduced sociability. An in-depth analysis in collaboration with scientists from the Friedrich Miescher Institute in Basel and the University of Bordeaux unveiled profound learning and behavioral problems and severe defects in the ability to activate neurons in the absence of coronin 1.

Activation of a signaling cascade

But how does coronin 1 ensure proper neurobehavioral functioning? Normally, stimulation of the cell surface results in an activation of an intracellular cascade of reactions and ultimately stimulates the production of the signaling molecule cAMP which then activates a number of processes, including the transcription of gene involved in neurobehavior. "We found that in the absence of coronin 1, cell surface stimulation leads to a defective cAMP production", explains Pieters. "This in turn affects the signal transduction which is finally responsible for the deficits in learning and memory formation."

Of mice and men

Furthermore, the researchers analyzed the clinical history of a patient lacking coronin 1 due to a mutation: it turned out that this patient showed learning defects and . With this study, Pieters and his project collaborators not only define a crucial role for coronin 1 in cognition and behavior, but also unravel a coronin 1-dependent signaling pathway that may be explored both for potential risk factors as well as future interventions to modulate neurobehavioral dysfunction.

More information: Rajesh Jayachandran, Xiaolong Liu, Somdeb BoseDasgupta, Philipp Müller, Chun-Lei Zhang, Despina Moshous, Vera Studer, Jacques Schneider, Christel Genoud, Catherine Fassoud, Fréderic Gambino, Malik Khelfaoui, Christian Müller, Deborah Bartholdi, Helene Rossez, Michael Stiess, Xander Houbaert, Rolf Jaussi, Daniel Frey, Richard A. Kammerer, Xavier Deupi, Jean-Pierre de Villartay, Andreas Lüthi, Yann Humeau, and Jean Pieters. "Coronin 1 Regulates Cognition and Behavior through Modulation of cAMP/Protein Kinase A Signaling." PLOS Biology, published March 25, 2014 | DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001820

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

The benefits of a spotless mind

Nov 15, 2013

Alzheimer's disease is an age-related memory disorder characterized by the accumulation of clumps of the toxic amyloid-β (Aβ) protein fragment in the extracellular space around neurons in the brain. Drugs ...

Forgetting is actively regulated

Mar 13, 2014

In order to function properly, the human brain requires the ability not only to store but also to forget: Through memory loss, unnecessary information is deleted and the nervous system retains its plasticity. ...

Recommended for you

Emotional adjustment following traumatic brain injury

Oct 24, 2014

Life after a traumatic brain injury resulting from a car accident, a bad fall or a neurodegenerative disease changes a person forever. But the injury doesn't solely affect the survivor – the lives of their spouse or partner ...

New ALS associated gene identified using innovative strategy

Oct 22, 2014

Using an innovative exome sequencing strategy, a team of international scientists led by John Landers, PhD, at the University of Massachusetts Medical School has shown that TUBA4A, the gene encoding the Tubulin Alpha 4A protein, ...

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Donna297
not rated yet Mar 26, 2014
I'd be interested to know more about what the implications of this research, and how it can help people. Specifically, what causes a lack of corontin 1?