Mechanism of brain development deciphered

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Protein control loop crucial for brain development

While the functions of the various areas of the brain have already been researched to a relatively large extent, little is known about the development of the brain or the relevant factors. Swedish and German researchers have now identified a previously unknown mechanism that plays an important role in the embryonic development of the human brain.

The scientists around Dr. Christopher Horst Lillig from the University of Greifswald and Dr. Carsten Berndt from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm have discovered a previously unknown control loop in the brain that is crucial for the development of structures in the human brain. Based on current knowledge, new therapeutic approaches for the treatment of various neurological diseases could be derived in the future, Dr. Lillig and Dr. Berndt in the current issue of the journal "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences" (PNAS). According to the researchers, the discovered protein control loop may also play an important role in the development of diseases such as epilepsy and Alzheimer's.

Origin of brain structures dependent on glutaredoxin-2? So far, only relatively few are known about the formation of structures in the brain. Which influencing factors the development of the approximately 100 billion nerve cells of the brain and their connection to each other (each nerve cell is connected to an average of 1,000 others) was therefore the focus of the current research by Dr. Lillig and colleagues. is. They wanted to find out which factors, signals and regulatory mechanisms determine the formation of structures in the brain. To this end, the scientists investigated the development of brain structures in zebrafish in a model experiment. Since they suspected a significant influence of the protein glutaredoxin-2 on the development of the brain, the researchers led by Dr. Berndt as part of her study, what effect a withdrawal of the protein has on the development of the brain of the zebrafish. According to the scientists, the zebra fish are particularly suitable as an example organism for the development of structures in the human brain.

Protein control loop has a major impact on brain development Dr. In the current PNAS article, Berndt explains that the protein glutaredoxin-2 is used to change the amino acid cysteine ​​and thus influences other proteins that are required for the formation of so-called axons in the brain. Axons are the fiber-like extensions of the nerve cell that are needed to connect the nerve cells (synapses) to one another. The scientists explain in the specialist magazine PNAS that this connection only ensures that the necessary stimulus transmission and communication between the different areas of the brain and the muscle cells is guaranteed. Without the formation of the axons, the complex network between the nerve cells in the human brain cannot be built, according to Dr. Berndt. At this point, the protein glutaredoxin-2 apparently plays an important role, because in the zebrafish without the protein the linkages could not be formed and the neurons under development died as a result of the missing linkage. The Swedish-German research team emphasized that this clearly demonstrates the significant importance of the newly discovered control loop for brain development.

Possible effects of the protein control loop on neurological diseases In a next step, it is now to be checked whether the discovered control loop may also have an influence on the development of neurological diseases such as dementia or Alzheimer's or epilepsy. Because according to Dr. Berndt and Dr. Lillig suggests that the proteins needed to form the axons could also play an important role in such neurological diseases. In any case, it is now clearly demonstrated for the first time that the embryonic development of the brain depends on the enzymatic activity of glutaredoxin-2. Without “glutaredoxin-2, practically all types of neurons lost the ability to develop an axonal scaffold,” according to the researchers. In addition to the scientists from the University of Greifswald and the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, researchers from the Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf and the Philipps University in Marburg were also involved in the current study. (fp)

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