Researchers identify protein controlling brain formation

Sep 04, 2009

Researchers at the University of Toronto have identified a protein which plays a key role in the development of neurons, which could enhance our understanding of how the brain works, and how diseases such as Alzheimer's occur.

U of T graduate student John Calarco, working in the labs of Professor Ben Blencowe (Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research, University of Toronto) and Professor Mei Zhen (Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute, Mount Sinai Hospital), has identified a protein known as nSR100, which is only found in vertebrate species and which controls a network of "alternative splicing events" that are located in the messages of genes with critical functions in the formation of the nervous system. The findings are published in a paper in the current edition of the journal Cell.

Alternative splicing events greatly expand the diversity of the genetic messages and corresponding proteins produced by genes in vertebrate cells, and this process partially accounts for the evolution of remarkable complexity in organs such as the mammalian . Calarco, recipient of a prestigious Alexander Graham Bell Studentship, together with colleagues in the Blencowe lab, identified nSR100 using computational and experimental methods and then determined its role in the control of alternative splicing in the brain. These studies revealed that nSR100 regulates splicing events in genes that help form neurons.

Collaborator and co-author Brian Ciruna and his colleagues at the the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto further demonstrated that nSR100 plays a critical role in the development of the vertebrate nervous system.

"The brain is by far the most complex organ in the human body and understanding how it functions represents one of the foremost challenges of biomedical research. A large number of neurological disorders arise when the development and function of certain neurons is impaired. A major research goal is therefore to identify key genes required for the specification and function of neurons in the brain, and nSR100 represents such a gene," said Blencowe, principal investigator on the study.

Calarco added that the findings present a new avenue of investigation for researchers. "The study provides intriguing insight into how the evolution of a single has contributed to the expansion of brain complexity in vertebrates - including humans.

Further investigation into the complex network of splicing events regulated by nSR100 may uncover important aspects of how neurons normally function and also how they become impaired in neurological diseases like Alzheimer's."

Provided by University of Toronto (news : web)

Explore further: Researchers find protein necessary for fertility performs different roles in sperm, eggs

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Unravelling new complexity in the genome

Aug 13, 2007

A major surprise emerging from genome sequencing projects is that humans have a comparable number of protein-coding genes as significantly less complex organisms such as the minute nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans. Clearly ...

Alternative splicing proteins prompt heart development

Dec 08, 2008

Just as the emotions it represents are dynamic, the heart's development requires dynamic shifts in proteins that prompt alternative spicing, a mechanism that allows a given gene to program the cell to make several proteins, ...

Recommended for you

In a role reversal, RNAs proofread themselves

Jan 29, 2015

Building a protein is a lot like a game of telephone: information is passed along from one messenger to another, creating the potential for errors every step of the way. There are separate, specialized enzymatic ...

Growing functioning brain tissue in 3D

Jan 29, 2015

Researchers at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Japan have succeeded in inducing human embryonic stem cells to self-organize into a three-dimensional structure similar to the cerebellum, providing ...

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.