Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Compounds that help protect nerve cells discovered

Date:
January 21, 2010
Source:
Duke University Medical Center
Summary:
Scientists have found some compounds that improve a cell's ability to properly "fold" proteins and could lead to promising drugs for degenerative nerve diseases, including Huntington's disease, Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.

Scientists at Duke University Medical Center have found some compounds that improve a cell's ability to properly "fold" proteins and could lead to promising drugs for degenerative nerve diseases, including Huntington's disease, Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.

Misfolded proteins in nerve cells (neurons) are a common factor in all of these diseases. The Duke team has identified many new chemicals that activate a master regulator to increase the supply of "protein chaperone" molecules that help fold proteins properly.

The scientists further explored one of the candidate molecules to activate the master regulator of chaperone gene expression, Heat Shock Factor 1 (HSF1), to learn whether it would work in model systems of Huntington's disease, a devastating neurodegenerative disease of protein misfolding.

They were able to show that the molecule stimulated protein chaperones in cells and in an animal system. The damage to early-state rat neurons was much lower in cells pre-treated with the HSF1 activator, and damage to the neurons of fruit flies that had a Huntington's-like disorder was also greatly reduced.

Previous studies suggested that elevating the abundance of protein chaperones is effective in treating cell and animal models of Huntington's and Parkinson's diseases. This work provides a new approach to address the root cause of these diseases -- protein misfolding. Earlier attempts had used heat shock and other approaches that stress a nerve cell in order to produce more chaperone molecules, but at a cost of damaging the cell to save it.

"The advantage of our screen is that it identifies molecules that can elevate the levels of chaperones without inducing cellular stress and that don't inhibit a key protein chaperone called Hsp90 that is needed for cells to function normally," said senior author Dennis J. Thiele, Ph.D., Professor of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology. "We found a creative way to identify new molecules that can activate the body's natural protein folding machinery."

The research was published in the Jan. 19 online issue of PLoS Biology.

Lead author Daniel Neef, Ph.D., says they used genetically altered yeast to find compounds that might aid chaperone development. The scientists took yeast with a deleted HSF1 (master regulator) gene and inserted the related human HSF1 gene. These yeast, however, still weren't able to activate human HSF1 on their own, and in effect, died. They needed an additional molecule to make human HSF1 become active.

The team put these "humanized yeasts" into wells and started testing compounds that would provide the missing link. In several of the wells, if the compound worked, the yeast started multiplying. "Out of over 12,000 compounds tested from chemical libraries, about 50 compounds worked," Neef said. The team decided to explore one of these compounds (HSF1A) in further experiments.

"The humanized yeast-based screening results in our study provide a way to identify new classes of small molecules, small enough to penetrate the blood-brain barrier to work in neurons, in flies as well as in humans," Thiele said. "These small molecules may be effective therapies in neurodegenerative diseases caused by protein conformational disorders such as Huntington's, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease."

The scientists found that HSF1A could stimulate more protein chaperones and reduce the protein misfolding. They showed that adding a small amount of HSF1A to the developing rat neurons kept the proteins dissolved throughout the cell, rather than clumping visibly as speckled areas (as seen under microscopes).

"We enhanced the cells' viability by four or five times by pre-treating them with this molecule," Neef said. "Otherwise, the cells would have died."

They used fruit flies with Huntington's disease for experiments to prove that the principle would work in an animal. Adding HSF1A to the fly's food produced more chaperone molecules in their neurons. This suggests that the molecule could travel from the fly's stomach into its circulation and cross a barrier to the fly brain.

In the key experiment, the Huntington's disease flies received either their usual food or food plus HSF1A. Those with untreated food developed eyes with dying photoreceptor neurons and lacking the normal red color. Those that ate HSF1A went on to have normal-colored eyes, indicating a repair had taken place, just by eating food laced with the promising compound.

Michelle Turski, now with Stanford University, was a co-author of the study. The work was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health.


Story Source:

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


Cite This Page:

Duke University Medical Center. "Compounds that help protect nerve cells discovered." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 January 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100119161803.htm>.
Duke University Medical Center. (2010, January 21). Compounds that help protect nerve cells discovered. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100119161803.htm
Duke University Medical Center. "Compounds that help protect nerve cells discovered." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100119161803.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Dieting At A Young Age Might Lead To Harmful Health Habits

Dieting At A Young Age Might Lead To Harmful Health Habits

Newsy (July 30, 2014) Researchers say women who diet at a young age are at greater risk of developing harmful health habits, including eating disorders and alcohol abuse. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

Newsy (July 29, 2014) If you've been looking for love online, there's a chance somebody has been looking at how you're looking. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

Newsy (July 29, 2014) Researchers have found certain facial features can make us seem more attractive or trustworthy. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A new study shows sleep deprivation can make it harder for people to remember specific details of an event. 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:
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