Turning down gene expression promotes nerve cell maintenance

Feb 02, 2009

Anyone with a sweet tooth knows that too much of a good thing can lead to negative consequences. The same can be said about the signals that help maintain nerve cells, as demonstrated in a new study of myelin, a protein key to efficient neuronal transmission.

Normal nerve cells have a myelin sheath, which, much like the insulation on a cable, allows for rapid and efficient signal conduction. However, in several diseases - the most well-known being multiple sclerosis - demyelination processes cause the breakdown of this "insulation", and lead to deficits in perception, movement, cognition, etc. Thus, in order to help patients of demyelinating disease, researchers are studying the pathways that control myelin formation and maintenance.

A new study by University of California scientists examines the role of a structural protein, called lamin, in maintaining myelin. They found that, while lamin is necessary in the initial stages of myelin formation, too much lamin promotes myelin breakdown. Further investigation led the researchers to the discovery of a signal that fine-tunes lamin expression. This signal, a microRNA called miR-23, can turn down lamin gene expression, and thereby prevent demyelination due to lamin overexpression.

This new work reported in Disease Models & Mechanisms (DMM), dmm.biologists.org, adds another piece to the puzzle that is understanding myelin formation and maintenance. Additionally, the identification of miR-23 as a myelin regulator introduces a new potential drug target in developing treatments for demyelinating illness.

The report was written Shu-Ting Lin and Ying-Hui Fu at the Department of Neurology, University of California San Francisco. The report is published in the March/April issue of Disease Models & Mechanisms (DMM), a research journal published by The Company of Biologists, a non-profit based in Cambridge, UK.

Source: The Company of Biologists

Explore further: Emerging disease could wipe out American, European salamanders

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Tracing water channels in cell surface receptors

Sep 09, 2014

G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) are the largest class of cell surface receptors in our cells, involved in signal transmission across the cell membrane. One of the biggest questions is how a signal recognized at the extracellular ...

Key to pathogenic slime uncovered

Sep 03, 2014

(Phys.org) —Dental plaque, the sludge in hot springs and black slime inside of toilets are all examples of biofilms, made of slick communities of bacteria that also play roles in many diseases.

Research reveals how key controller protein is switched on

Jul 10, 2014

New research has uncovered how a complex protein pivotal in the development of cancer, viral infection and autoimmune diseases is activated. The discovery answers a key question about one of the most widely-researched proteins ...

Recommended for you

Himalayan Viagra fuels caterpillar fungus gold rush

7 hours ago

Overwhelmed by speculators trying to cash-in on a prized medicinal fungus known as Himalayan Viagra, two isolated Tibetan communities have managed to do at the local level what world leaders often fail to ...

Science casts light on sex in the orchard

10 hours ago

Persimmons are among the small club of plants with separate sexes—individual trees are either male or female. Now scientists at the University of California, Davis, and Kyoto University in Japan have discovered ...

Researchers capture picture of microRNA in action

10 hours ago

Biologists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have described the atomic-level workings of "microRNA" molecules, which control the expression of genes in all animals and plants.

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.