Research group identifies GLUT2 protein's role in zebrafish brain development

January 14, 2015

Researchers from the University of Barcelona (UB) have described the key role that GLUT2 protein plays in embryonic brain development in zebrafish. A new article —highlighted on the cover of the January issue of the Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism— proves that this molecule depletion alters the development of brain basic structures involved in glucose sensing.

The study points the use of zebrafish (Danio rerio) as a model to study diseases produced by GLUT2 alterations, such as the Fanconi-Bickel syndrome (FBS), a rare glycogen storage disease characterized by the absence of GLUT2 which causes severe liver and kidney dysfunction. The study is led by Josep Planas, lecturer in the Department of Physiology and Immunology and researcher at the Institute of Biomedicine of the UB. Researchers from Leiden University collaborate in the study too.

Glucose: a key factor to cellular metabolism

GLUT2 is a glucose transporter that facilitates the entry of glucose―a monosaccharide crucial for proper brain function― inside cells. In order to investigate GLUT2 function in embryonic , the UB group knocked down GLUT2 in zebrafish embryos and examine the anomalies that took place. "Glucose deprivation induces apoptosis (programmed cell death)", says Josep Planas. "Moreover ―he adds―, the brain region proved to be involved in the detection of glucose level changes in mammals is altered. This region also regulates feeding behaviour, energy metabolism, and glucose homeostasis".

The system detects, for instance, the lack of glucose after a fast or its excess caused by food intake, and organise endocrine response to maintain the needed to survive.

"The study first proves the crucial role that GLUT2 plays in early development. Moreover, it relates GLUT2 depletion to the alteration of the brain structures that take part in the regulation of brain glucose", summarises Josep Planas.

A model for studying metabolic diseases

The study may have implications for the treatment of diseases characterised by glucose deprivation like the Fanconi-Bickel syndrome. "People who suffer the syndrome present psychomotor developmental problems as a consequence of the alteration of cerebellum development and glucose regulation mechanism", affirms Planas. Zebrafish embryos without GLUT2 present features which are similar to the ones that characterise this syndrome. Researchers consider that zebrafish can be used as a model to study in deep the strategies to treat this type of diseases.

The zebrafish is a species that develops quickly out of the mother's body. Besides, genetic manipulation is easier than in other animal models (for example, mice). So zebrafish embryos provide a unique opportunity to unravel the mechanisms following this rare disease.

The UB research group will develop new studies to analyse the consequences that knocking out GLUT2 has on adult . "It will be a key evidence to better understand the functional role that GLUT2 has in regulation, and to identify what neurons that undergo apoptosis die and change their expression pattern without this transporter", concludes the researcher.

Explore further: Scientists discover brain mechanism that drives us to eat glucose

More information: Rubén Marín Juez, Mireia Rovira, Diego Crespo, Michiel van der Vaart, Herman P. Spaink y Josep V. Planas. "GLUT2-mediated glucose uptake and availability are required for embryonic brain development in zebrafish". Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism, October 2014. DOI: 10.1038/jcbfm.2014.171

Related Stories

Scientists discover brain mechanism that drives us to eat glucose

December 8, 2014
Glucose is a component of carbohydrates, and the main energy source used by brain cells.

Protein linked to aging identified as new target for controlling diabetes

November 5, 2014
Indiana University School of Medicine researchers have identified a small protein with a big role in lowering plasma glucose and increasing insulin sensitivity. Their research appeared online today in Diabetes, the journal ...

Glucose 'control switch' in the brain key to both types of diabetes

July 28, 2014
Researchers at Yale School of Medicine have pinpointed a mechanism in part of the brain that is key to sensing glucose levels in the blood, linking it to both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. The findings are published in the ...

BPA and BPS affect embryonic brain development in zebrafish

January 12, 2015
Bisphenol A, known as BPA, is produced in massive quantities around the world for use in consumer products, including household plastics. In response to public concerns, many manufacturers have replaced BPA with a chemical ...

Zebrafish help to unravel Alzheimer's disease

August 19, 2014
New fundamental knowledge about the regulation of stem cells in the nerve tissue of zebrafish embryos results in surprising insights into neurodegenerative disease processes in the human brain. A new study by scientists at ...

Treating obesity via brain glucose sensing

July 26, 2011
The past two decades have witnessed an epidemic spread of obesity-related diseases in Western countries. Elucidating the biological mechanism that links overnutrition to obesity could prove crucial in reducing obesity levels. ...

Recommended for you

How rogue immune cells cross the blood-brain barrier to cause multiple sclerosis

November 21, 2017
Drug designers working on therapeutics against multiple sclerosis should focus on blocking two distinct ways rogue immune cells attack healthy neurons, according to a new study in the journal Cell Reports.

New simple test could help cystic fibrosis patients find best treatment

November 21, 2017
Several cutting-edge treatments have become available in recent years to correct the debilitating chronic lung congestion associated with cystic fibrosis. While the new drugs are life-changing for some patients, they do not ...

Researchers discover key signaling protein for muscle growth

November 20, 2017
Researchers at the University of Louisville have discovered the importance of a well-known protein, myeloid differentiation primary response gene 88 (MyD88), in the development and regeneration of muscles. Ashok Kumar, Ph.D., ...

New breast cell types discovered by multidisciplinary research team

November 20, 2017
A joint effort by breast cancer researchers and bioinformaticians has provided new insights into the molecular changes that drive breast development.

Brain cell advance brings hope for Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease

November 20, 2017
Scientists have developed a new system to study Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in the laboratory, paving the way for research to find treatments for the fatal brain disorder.

Hibernating ground squirrels provide clues to new stroke treatments

November 17, 2017
In the fight against brain damage caused by stroke, researchers have turned to an unlikely source of inspiration: hibernating ground squirrels.


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.