Brain development and plasticity share similar signalling pathways

October 10, 2017, Goethe University Frankfurt am Main

October 2017. Learning and memory are two important functions of the brain that are based on the brain's plasticity. Scientists from Goethe University Frankfurt report in the latest issue of the scientific journal Cell Reports how a trio of key molecules directs these processes. Their findings provide new leads for the therapy of Alzheimer's disease.

The is able to adapt to new situations through changing, building or reducing the contact points between nerve cells (synapses). In particular, the signal strength is regulated by constantly altering the abundance of receptors in the membrane of . This explains why it is easier to remember information that we use frequently as opposed to information that we learned years ago and did not use anymore.

Amparo Acker-Palmer's research group at the Institute of Cell Biology and Neuroscience of the Goethe University focused in their study on AMPA receptors, which are the main transmitters of the stimulating signals. Nerve in the hippocampus, the brain region responsible for learning and memory, are able to alter the number of their "switched-on" receptors by extending or retracting them like antennae thereby regulating the strength of a signal. The Frankfurt scientists now discovered that three key molecules are involved in this regulation: GRIP1, ephrinB2 and ApoER2, the latter being a receptor for the signalling molecule Reelin.

"These results are fascinating since it has been known for years that ephrinB2 as well as Reelin are essential for the development of the brain " explains Amparo Acker-Palmer. "Furthermore, earlier work in my lab has shown that there is an interaction between the Reelin signalling pathway and ephrinBs when neurons migrate during brain maturation."

Interestingly, a single mechanism can fulfill very different functions within a cell. An earlier study by Amparo Acker-Palmer's team already showed that macromolecular complexes consisting of ephrinB2 and ApoER2 regulate processes involved in neuronal migration. In the present study, the scientists selectively inhibited the interaction between the two proteins and could thereby demonstrate that these proteins, together with GRIP1, also influence in adults. When the interaction between these proteins was inhibited, neurons were unable to react to changes in the activity of their network. They also showed defects in long-term plasticity, which is the cellular basis for learning and memory.

"Both, ApoER2 and ephrinB2 molecules have been linked to the development of Alzheimer's, although the mechanisms of action are not clear yet", says Amparo Acker-Palmer. "With our research we not only discovered new interactions of key for the regulation of learning and memory but also shed light on potential new therapeutic targets for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease."

Explore further: Discovery of a new mechanism for controlling memory

More information: Sylvia Pfennig et al. GRIP1 Binds to ApoER2 and EphrinB2 to Induce Activity-Dependent AMPA Receptor Insertion at the Synapse, Cell Reports (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2017.09.019

Related Stories

Discovery of a new mechanism for controlling memory

September 14, 2017
Researchers in Bordeaux recently discovered a new mechanism for storing information in synapses and a means of controlling the storage process. The breakthrough moves science closer to unveiling the mystery of the molecular ...

Proteins involved in brain's connectivity are controlled by multiple checkpoints

August 31, 2017
University of Bristol scientists have found that the delivery of a group of proteins involved in the information flow between the brain's nerve cells to the synapse is much more sophisticated than previously suspected. The ...

How do neurons and blood vessels "talk" to each other?

May 12, 2015
Neurons and blood vessels often traverse the body side by side, a fact observed as early as the 16th century by the Flemish anatomist Andreas Vesalius. Only over the last ten years, however, researchers have discovered that ...

Memory is influenced by perineuronal nets

September 13, 2017
Kristian Lensjø has taken a PhD at the University of Oslo investigating the mechanisms of learning and memory. His work has contributed to the understanding of perineuronal nets.

Why cancer cells grow despite a lack of oxygen

November 25, 2014
Healthy cells reduce their growth when there is a lack of oxygen (hypoxia). This makes it even more surprising that hypoxia is a characteristic feature of malignant tumours. In two publications in the current edition of the ...

Recommended for you

Use of electrical brain stimulation to foster creativity has sweeping implications

September 18, 2018
What is creativity, and can it be enhanced—safely—in a person who needs a boost of imagination? Georgetown experts debate the growing use of electrical devices that stimulate brain tissue, and conclude there is potential ...

Engineers decode conversations in brain's motor cortex

September 18, 2018
How does your brain talk with your arm? The body doesn't use English, or any other spoken language. Biomedical engineers are developing methods for decoding the conversation, by analyzing electrical patterns in the motor ...

Team identifies brain's lymphatic vessels as new avenue to treat multiple sclerosis

September 17, 2018
Lymphatic vessels that clean the brain of harmful material play a crucial role in the development and progression of multiple sclerosis, new research from the University of Virginia School of Medicine suggests. The vessels ...

Circuit found for brain's statistical inference about motion

September 17, 2018
As the eye tracks a bird flying past, the muscles that pan the eyeballs to keep the target in focus set their pace not only on the speed they see, but also on a reasonable estimate of the speed they expect from having watched ...

Mouse study reveals that activity, not rest, speeds recovery after brain injury

September 17, 2018
When recovering from a brain injury, getting back in the swing of things may be more effective than a prolonged period of rest, according to a new Columbia study in mice. These findings offer a compelling example of the brain's ...

Fine-tuned sense of smell relies on timing

September 17, 2018
If you can tell the difference between a merlot and a cabernet franc just by smell, it's probably all in the timing.

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.