The matchmaker that maintains neuronal balance

Mar 25, 2009

A protein identified by researchers at Baylor College of Medicine helps maintain a critical balance between two types of neurons, preventing motor dysfunction in mammals.

In a report in the current edition of the journal Neuron, Dr. Soo-Kyung Lee, assistant professor of molecular and , molecular and cellular biology and neuroscience at BCM, and her colleagues describe the LMO4 as critical in allowing progenitor cells to choose their fates - between the V2a that are excitatory and the V2b neurons that are inhibitory. Excitatory neurons encourage the activity of neurons on which they act. Inhibitory neurons act in an opposite manner.

In previous work, Lee and members of her laboratory identified the double-barreled or dimerized complex containing the protein Lhx3 that pushes the progenitor cells to become V2a excitatory neurons. In this paper, she notes the LMO4 not only forms a complex that binds to DNA and promotes the choice of cell fate to the V2b inhibitory neurons, it also blocks the path to becoming a V2a excitatory neuron.

Because LMO4 cannot bind directly to DNA, it plays instead, building a complex of DNA-binding components that allow the cells to choice to become inhibitory neurons.

"These individual DNA-binding components are present in the neurons," she said. "But they do not have the ability to find their DNA partners. LMO4 'glues' these proteins together and makes them functional."

She and her colleagues have demonstrated these both in the laboratory and in mice bred to lack LMO4. Without the protein, the balance becomes tipped in favor of excitatory neurons, which would result in .

Others who took part in this research include Kaumudi Joshi, Seunghee Lee, Bora Lee and Jae W. Lee, all of BCM.

Lee credits graduate student Kaumdi Joshi with much of the laboratory work in accomplishing this understanding.

More information: http://www.bcm.edu/mcb/?PMID=7591

Source: Baylor College of Medicine (news : web)

Explore further: Lost memories might be able to be restored, new study indicates

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Mixing and matching genes to keep nerve cells straight

Jun 09, 2008

With fewer than 30,000 human genes with which to work, Nature has to mix and match to generate the myriad types of neurons or nerve cells needed to assemble the brain and nervous system. Keeping this involved process on the ...

Mapping the neuron-behavior link in Rett Syndrome

Sep 24, 2008

A link between certain behaviors and the lack of the protein associated with Rett Syndrome – a devastating autism spectrum disorder – demonstrates the importance of MeCP2 (the protein) and reveals never-before recognized ...

Tracing the formation of long-term memory

Dec 06, 2006

The formation of long-term memory in fruit flies can be demonstrated by the influx of calcium into cells called mushroom body neurons that occurs after special training that includes periods of rest, said researchers from ...

Recommended for you

Researchers unlock mystery of skin's sensory abilities

Dec 19, 2014

Humans' ability to detect the direction of movement of stimuli in their sensory world is critical to survival. Much of this stimuli detection comes from sight and sound, but little is known about how the ...

Tackling neurotransmission precision

Dec 18, 2014

Behind all motor, sensory and memory functions, calcium ions are in the brain, making those functions possible. Yet neuroscientists do not entirely understand how fast calcium ions reach their targets inside ...

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.