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SUMO Wrestling In The Brain

Date:
May 9, 2007
Source:
University of Bristol
Summary:
Increasing the amount of SUMO, a small protein in the brain, could be a way of treating diseases such as epilepsy and schizophrenia, reveal scientists.
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Distribution of kainate receptors (blue) and SUMOylation enzymes (red) in the synaptic areas (green) of a hippocampal neurone.
Credit: Stephane Martin

Increasing the amount of SUMO, a small protein in the brain, could be a way of treating diseases such as epilepsy and schizophrenia, reveal scientists at the University of Bristol, UK.

The brain contains about 100 million nerve cells, each having 10,000 connections to other nerves cells. These connections, called synapses, chemically transmit the information that controls all brain function via proteins called receptors. These processes are believed to be the basis of learning and memory.

A major feature of a healthy brain is that the synapses can modify how efficiently they work, by increasing or decreasing the amount of information transmitted. In disorders such as epilepsy the synapses transmit too much information, resulting in over-excitation in the cells.

The research team, led by Professor Jeremy Henley at Bristol University, has discovered that when one type of receptor -- the kainate receptor -- receives a chemical signal, a small protein called SUMO becomes attached to it. SUMO pulls the kainate receptor out of the synapse, preventing it from receiving information from other cells, thus making the cell less excitable.

Professor Henley said: "This work is important because it gives a new perspective and a deeper understanding of how the flow of information between cells in the brain is regulated. It is possible that increasing the amount of SUMO attached to kainate receptors -- which would reduce communication between the cells -- could be a way to treat epilepsy by preventing over-excitation."

The discovery that SUMO proteins can regulate the way brain cells communicate may provide insight into the causes of, and treatments for, brain diseases that are characterised by too much synaptic activity. This discovery also provides new potential targets for drug development that could one day be used to treat a range of such disorders.

These findings were published online May 7, 2007 in Nature. This research was funded by the Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust and the European Union.


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The above post is reprinted from materials provided by University of Bristol. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


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University of Bristol. "SUMO Wrestling In The Brain." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 May 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070507133034.htm>.
University of Bristol. (2007, May 9). SUMO Wrestling In The Brain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070507133034.htm
University of Bristol. "SUMO Wrestling In The Brain." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070507133034.htm (accessed July 31, 2015).

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