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

Separate brain systems cooperate during learning, study finds

February 21, 2018
A new study by Brown University researchers shows that two different brain systems work cooperatively as people learn.

Cognitive benefits of 'young blood' linked to brain protein in mice

February 21, 2018
Loss of an enzyme that modifies gene activity to promote brain regeneration may be partly responsible for age-related cognitive decline, according to new research in laboratory mice by UC San Francisco scientists, who also ...

How the brain tells our limbs apart

February 21, 2018
Legs and arms perform very different functions. Our legs are responsible primarily for repetitive locomotion, like walking and running. Our arms and hands, by contrast, must be able to execute many highly specialized jobs—picking ...

Therapeutic antibodies protected nerve–muscle connections in a mouse model of Lou Gehrig's disease

February 20, 2018
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, causes lethal respiratory paralysis within several years of diagnosis. There are no effective treatments to slow or halt this devastating disease. Mouse ...

Brain immune system is key to recovery from motor neuron degeneration

February 20, 2018
The selective demise of motor neurons is the hallmark of Lou Gehrig's disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Yet neurologists have suspected there are other types of brain cells involved in the progression ...

Brain liquefaction after stroke is toxic to surviving brain: study

February 20, 2018
Scientists have known for years that the brain liquefies after a stroke. If cut off from blood and oxygen for a long enough period, a portion of the brain will die, slowly morphing from a hard, rubbery substance into liquid ...

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.