Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Protein Identified As Critical To Insulating The Body's Wiring Could Also Become Treatment Target

Date:
May 26, 2009
Source:
Medical College of Georgia
Summary:
A new protein identified as critical to insulating the wiring that connects the brain and body could one day be a treatment target for divergent diseases, from rare ones that lower the pain threshold to cancer, researchers say.

Dr. Lin Mei, the study's corresponding author and director of MCG's Institute of Molecular Medicine and Genetics, and Dr. Yanmei Tao says, postdoctoral fellow in neurobiology and the study's first author.
Credit: Image courtesy of Medical College of Georgia

A new protein identified as critical to insulating the wiring that connects the brain and body could one day be a treatment target for divergent diseases, from rare ones that lower the pain threshold to cancer, Medical College of Georgia researchers say.

They report this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that in the peripheral nervous system that controls arms and legs, the protein erbin regulates the protein neuregulin 1, stabilizing and interacting with the ErbB2 receptor on Schwann cells so they can make myelin, which insulates the wiring.

Their studies in mice have shown that when erbin is missing or mutated, the insulation is inadequate, slowing communication.

"Erbin is like a tuner to make signaling stronger or weaker," says Dr. Lin Mei, the study's corresponding author and director of MCG's Institute of Molecular Medicine and Genetics.

Without erbin, the myelin production system falls apart. Eventually raw, over-exposed nerves can die.

"Receptors for neuregulin 1 just get degraded and lost," says Dr. Mei, Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Neuroscience. "Schwann cells can see neuregulin 1 sitting there but they can't do anything without the receptor."

Impaired myelin formation and maintenance is implicated in a variety of neurological and psychiatric diseases including schizophrenia, multiple sclerosis and Charcot-Marie-Tooth neuropathy, a genetic, progressive disease that weakens muscles.

Cancer is an issue because the ErbB2 receptor also is an oncogene highly expressed in tumors. ErbB2 helps cancer cells grow and spread so finding its role in the receptor's stability and function provides a potential new site for targeted cancer therapy, says Dr. Yanmei Tao says, postdoctoral fellow in neurobiology and the study's first author. In fact, antibodies to ErbB2 already are available to patients with breast and prostate cancers.

For nerves to communicate with each other or another cell type, such as a muscle cell, they reach out with an arm or extension called an axon. Much like the telephone lines that line roadways, these arms require proper insulation, called myelin, composed mostly of lipids and some proteins.

Axons that transmit quick messages – such as telling legs to walk – need a lot of insulation. Sensory nerves – such as those on the fingertips that prompt retraction from a hot stovetop – need less.

"In any given nerve, some axons are wrapped heavily by myelin," Dr. Mei says. "It's based on nerve function. For example, if the nerve needs more speed in conducting a signal or information, like motor nerves, they would be wrapped more."

In fact, erbin is enriched in regions with a lot of myelinated axons, such as the sciatic nerve, which runs down the lower back into the legs, the researchers found.

Dr. Mei also is exploring the role of neuregulin 1 in cell talk in the brain. He and collaborators have identified a sort of a sort of check and balance for brain cell activity managed by neuregulin-1 in the area of the brain where complex reasoning and decisions about appropriate social behavior occur. They showed that neuregulin-1 and another receptor, ErbB4, help keep a healthy balance between excitation and inhibition of brain cells.

Their studies published in Neuron in 2007 showed neuregulin-1 and ErbB4, promote inhibition at the site of inhibitory synapses in the brain by increasing release of GABA, a major inhibitory neurotransmitter.

In 2000, the researchers showed the pair also are at excitatory synapses, communication points between neurons where the neurotransmitter glutamate excites cells to action. Here, neuregulin-1 and ErbB4 suppress excitation.

These findings have implications for conditions such as schizophrenia and seizures, where cell talk is out of control.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Medical College of Georgia. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Medical College of Georgia. "Protein Identified As Critical To Insulating The Body's Wiring Could Also Become Treatment Target." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 May 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090519134826.htm>.
Medical College of Georgia. (2009, May 26). Protein Identified As Critical To Insulating The Body's Wiring Could Also Become Treatment Target. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090519134826.htm
Medical College of Georgia. "Protein Identified As Critical To Insulating The Body's Wiring Could Also Become Treatment Target." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090519134826.htm (accessed September 18, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

The Cost of Ebola

The Cost of Ebola

Reuters - Business Video Online (Sep. 18, 2014) As Sierra Leone prepares for a three-day "lockdown" in its latest bid to stem the spread of Ebola, Ciara Lee looks at the financial implications of fighting the largest ever outbreak of the disease. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
What HealthKit Bug Means For Your iOS Fitness Apps

What HealthKit Bug Means For Your iOS Fitness Apps

Newsy (Sep. 18, 2014) Apple has delayed the launch of the HealthKit app platform, citing a bug. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Residents Vaccinated as Haiti Fights Cholera Epidemic

Residents Vaccinated as Haiti Fights Cholera Epidemic

AFP (Sep. 18, 2014) Haitians receive the second dose of the vaccine against cholera as part of the UN's vaccination campaign. Duration: 00:34 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

AP (Sep. 18, 2014) Grand the elephant has successfully undergone surgery to remove a portion of infected tusk at Tbilisi Zoo in Georgia. British veterinary surgeons used an electric drill to extract the infected piece. (Sept. 18) 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:
from the past week

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