Protein protects brain against compound in lead poisoning, liver disease

Dec 06, 2007

Scientists have discovered that a protein known as PEPT2 protects the brains of mice from a naturally occurring but potentially toxic compound present in lead poisoning and in a class of liver diseases that can cause serious neurological complications.

Scientists at the University of Michigan found that when dosed with the compound called 5-aminolevulinic acid (5-ALA), mice without the PEPT2 protein died sooner, had neuromuscular dysfunction, and had up to 30 times higher concentrations of the toxic compound in their cerebrospinal fluid than did mice with the PEPT2.

PEPT2 is part of a class of membrane proteins called transporter proteins. The research focuses on understanding how these proteins work so that eventually, transporter proteins can be used to deliver different compounds to or from areas of the body in order to help fight diseases such as cancer.

"The findings suggest that the PEPT2 protein could work the same way in humans," said David Smith, U-M professor and chair of pharmaceutical sciences. "If that is the case, then PEPT2 may have relevance as a secondary genetic modifier of conditions such as acute hepatic porphyrias and lead poisoning, and in drug transport at the blood-brain barrier.

"We are looking at how to use the body's own machinery to get the compounds to where we want them to go," Smith said.

Naturally occurring in the body, the acid is involved in forming a substance called heme, which is a component of hemoglobin as well as many important enzymes. If there is an accumulation or an overproduction of 5-ALA in the body, however, it can become toxic. High concentrations of 5-ALA are present in people who have lead poisoning or hepatic porphyrias.

Source: University of Michigan

Explore further: Researchers take 'first baby step' toward anti-aging drug

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Hawaii lava stalls just short of shopping center

39 minutes ago

Call it a holiday gift from Pele. Lava from the mountain believed to be home to the Hawaiian volcano goddess has stalled on its slow creep toward a Big Island shopping center.

Wildlife groups seek help for California owl

49 minutes ago

Loggers cutting down forests burned in wildfires could bring about the extinction of California spotted owls, wildlife advocates said Tuesday as they sought protection for the birds under the federal Endangered ...

GPS used to track some immigrants caught at border

59 minutes ago

The Homeland Security Department is experimenting with a new way to track immigrant families caught crossing the border illegally and then released into the U.S.: GPS-enabled ankle bracelets.

Recommended for you

Biomedical team creates 'nerve on a chip'

Dec 24, 2014

Michael J. Moore and J. Lowry Curley first met in the laboratory as professor and student. Now the two Tulane University researchers have started a new biomedical company that's winning praise and awards.

User comments : 0

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.