Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Scientists Pinpoint Molecules That Generate Synapses

Date:
July 26, 2004
Source:
Harvard University
Summary:
Researchers have found a family of molecules that play a key role in the formation of synapses, the junctions that link brain cells, called neurons, to each other. The molecules initiate the development of these connections, forming the circuitry of the mammalian nervous system.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., July 23, 2004 –- Researchers have found a family of molecules that play a key role in the formation of synapses, the junctions that link brain cells, called neurons, to each other. The molecules initiate the development of these connections, forming the circuitry of the mammalian nervous system.

Related Articles


Scientists from Harvard University and Washington University in St. Louis describe the findings in the July 23 issue of the journal Cell.

"This is very basic work, far from any clinical applications at this point," says author Joshua R. Sanes, professor of molecular and cellular biology in Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences. "Still, one can think of lots of cases, from normal aging to mental retardation to neurodegenerative disease, where making more synapses or preventing synapse loss might be beneficial. This finding may eventually point the way to new therapies."

The work, using mice as a model, was conducted while Sanes and co-author Hisashi Umemori were at Washington University.

Synapses are the sites where neurons communicate with each other to form the large and complex information-processing networks of the brain. These networks are highly modifiable because the synapses between neurons are plastic, leading to changes that underlie learning. Synapses are also the targets of nearly all psychoactive drugs, including both prescription medications and illicit drugs.

"We knew that the apparatus for sending and receiving chemical and electrical signals was concentrated at the synapses where neurons connect with each other," Sanes says. "We wanted to determine how these special sites form."

As the early nervous system develops into a dense tangle of neurons, synapses sprout at places where neurons grow close to one another. In order for a synapse to actually form, Sanes and Umemori believed, certain key molecules would have to flow across the gap between two neurons to commence development of a synapse linking them.

Umemori spent several years scanning neurons in culture for these pioneering molecules that set in motion the linking of neural networks. In the end he fingered a molecule called FGF22, along with several of its close relatives, as key to setting in motion the construction of synapses. Umemori confirmed FGF22's role by showing that mice in which FGF22 was inactivated failed to grow synapses; conversely, when added to neurons in culture, the molecule stimulates synapse formation.

Sanes and Umemori determined that FGF22 works to build synapses in the brain's cerebellum, a critical center for motor control; it's unclear whether it also serves as a signal to foster synapse growth between neurons in other areas. Two other members of the FGF family, FGF7 and FGF10, are very similar in structure, and may play similar roles in other areas of the nervous system.

Sanes and Umemori's co-authors on the Cell paper are Michael W. Linhoff and David M. Ornitz, both at Washington University Medical School. The work was supported by the National Institutes of Health.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Harvard University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Harvard University. "Scientists Pinpoint Molecules That Generate Synapses." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 July 2004. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/07/040726084801.htm>.
Harvard University. (2004, July 26). Scientists Pinpoint Molecules That Generate Synapses. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/07/040726084801.htm
Harvard University. "Scientists Pinpoint Molecules That Generate Synapses." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/07/040726084801.htm (accessed November 28, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Friday, November 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Ebola Leaves Orphans Alone in Sierra Leone

Ebola Leaves Orphans Alone in Sierra Leone

AFP (Nov. 27, 2014) — The Ebola epidemic sweeping Sierra Leone is having a profound effect on the country's children, many of whom have been left without any family members to support them. Duration: 01:02 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Experimental Ebola Vaccine Shows Promise In Human Trial

Experimental Ebola Vaccine Shows Promise In Human Trial

Newsy (Nov. 27, 2014) — A recent test of a prototype Ebola vaccine generated an immune response to the disease in subjects. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Pet Dogs to Be Used in Anti-Ageing Trial

Pet Dogs to Be Used in Anti-Ageing Trial

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 26, 2014) — Researchers in the United States are preparing to discover whether a drug commonly used in human organ transplants can extend the lifespan and health quality of pet dogs. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Today's Prostheses Are More Capable Than Ever

Today's Prostheses Are More Capable Than Ever

Newsy (Nov. 26, 2014) — Advances in prosthetics are making replacement body parts stronger and more lifelike than they’ve ever been. Video provided by Newsy
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