Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Zinc Found To Be Integral Part Of Brain Communication Channels

Date:
January 13, 1999
Source:
The Salk Institute For Biological Studies
Summary:
Zinc has long been recognized as an essential trace element, and a current study led by Salk Institute investigators shows it to be an integral part of ion channels, structures that regulate communication among nerve cells.

LA JOLLA, CALIF. January 6, 1999 -- Zinc has long been recognized as an essential trace element, and a current study led by Salk Institute investigators shows it to be an integral part of ion channels, structures that regulate communication among nerve cells.

Related Articles


The study, which appears in the current issue of Nature Structural Biology, may explain why zinc deficiency has been linked to cognitive impairment.

"We don't know yet what zinc is doing, but it is definitely a component in these essential structures," said Senyon Choe, an assistant professor at The Salk Institute for Biological Studies and senior author on the study. "And it was surprising--at first we tried to disregard it, thinking it must be a contaminant, but, of course as you try to disprove it, it keeps coming back."

Ion channels are important "gatekeepers" that regulate the way ions such as calcium and potassium flow into and out of cells. Their flux is necessary for important neuronal processes. Calcium streams into brain cells and helps to initiate changes that accompany learning. Abnormalities in potassium channels have been found in some epileptics and in persons with both insulin-resistance and mobility disorders.

In the current study, Choe and his colleagues used X-ray crystallography to resolve the structures of four potassium channels from the sea slug Aplysia. The channels, called Shaw, Shab, Shal and Shaker, represent the four classes of potassium channels found in all higher organisms, including humans. With the exception of Shaker, all of the channels contained four zinc atoms in analogous positions.

"Each channel resembles a funnel," said Choe, "and the zinc elements ring the end that empties into the cell's interior."

Neuroscientists have known for decades that dyes that bind to zinc stain brain cells in unique patterns, indicating that zinc should have a role in brain function and studies have shown that zinc can enhance learning in undernourished children. The nature of zinc's organization in the brain, however, had been unclear.

"Now we know that zinc is embedded within structures that are absolutely critical for nerve cell activity," said Choe. "Furthermore, the amino acids that cradle the zinc atoms are completely conserved among the three classes of channels, telling us that during evolution there has been selective pressure to keep that zinc in place."

All four kinds of Aplysia potassium channels studied by Choe and colleagues have analogs in the human nervous system, so the investigators believe that their studies of zinc's role in Aplysia channel function are directly relevant to understanding its function in the human brain.

First author of the study, titled "Zn2+-binding and molecular determinants of tetramerization in voltage-gated K+ channels," is Kathryn Bixby, currently at the University of California, San Diego. Other Salk authors include Andreas Kreusch, a postdoctoral researcher in Choe's laboratory and Max Nanao, who is also a graduate student at the University of California, San Diego. The study was done in collaboration with N. Vivienne Shen and Paul J. Pffafinger at Baylor College of Medicine and Henry Bellamy at the Stanford Synchroton Radiation Laboratory. The work was supported by the National Institutes of Health and the American Heart Association.

The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, located in La Jolla, Calif., is an independent nonprofit institution dedicated to fundamental discoveries in the life sciences, the improvement of human health and conditions, and the training of future generations of researchers. The Institute was founded in 1960 by Jonas Salk, M.D., with a gift of land from the City of San Diego and the financial support of the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by The Salk Institute For Biological Studies. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

The Salk Institute For Biological Studies. "Zinc Found To Be Integral Part Of Brain Communication Channels." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 January 1999. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/01/990113075613.htm>.
The Salk Institute For Biological Studies. (1999, January 13). Zinc Found To Be Integral Part Of Brain Communication Channels. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/01/990113075613.htm
The Salk Institute For Biological Studies. "Zinc Found To Be Integral Part Of Brain Communication Channels." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/01/990113075613.htm (accessed October 30, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Mind-Controlled Prosthetic Arm Restores Amputee Dexterity

Mind-Controlled Prosthetic Arm Restores Amputee Dexterity

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 29, 2014) A Swedish amputee who became the first person to ever receive a brain controlled prosthetic arm is able to manipulate and handle delicate objects with an unprecedented level of dexterity. The device is connected directly to his bone, nerves and muscles, giving him the ability to control it with his thoughts. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Google To Use Nanoparticles, Wearables To Detect Disease

Google To Use Nanoparticles, Wearables To Detect Disease

Newsy (Oct. 29, 2014) Google X wants to improve modern medicine with nanoparticles and a wearable device. It's all an attempt to tackle disease detection and prevention. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Can Drinking Milk Lead To Early Death?

Can Drinking Milk Lead To Early Death?

Newsy (Oct. 29, 2014) Researchers in Sweden released a study showing heavy milk drinkers face an increased mortality risk from a variety of causes. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama: The US Will Not 'run and Hide' From Ebola

Obama: The US Will Not 'run and Hide' From Ebola

AP (Oct. 29, 2014) Surrounded by health care workers in the White House East Room, President Barack Obama said the U.S. will likely see additional Ebola cases in the weeks ahead. But he said the nation can't seal itself off in the fight against the disease. (Oct. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile: iPhone Android Web
    Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins