Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Communication problems in the brain

Date:
January 22, 2010
Source:
University Hospital Heidelberg
Summary:
For brain cells to communicate, the contacts to each other must function. The protein molecule neuroligin-1 plays an important role in this as it stimulates the necessary maturation processes at the contact sites (synapses) of the nerves. A synaptic maturation disorder is possibly involved in the development of autism.

Nerve cells communicate in a cell culture. The protein Neuroligin-1 is green. Bottom right: An enlarged picture of a synapse. Postsynaptic Neuroligin-1 (green) in contact with a presynaptic nerve ending (violett).
Credit: Institute for Anatomy and Cell Biology, Heidelberg University Hospital

For brain cells to communicate, the contacts to each other must function. The protein molecule neuroligin-1 plays an important role in this as it stimulates the necessary maturation processes at the contact sites (synapses) of the nerves.

Related Articles


A synaptic maturation disorder is possibly involved in the development of autism. Dr. Thomas Dresbach and his team from the Institute for Anatomy and Cell Biology at the University of Heidelberg, in cooperation with the study group led by Professor Dr. Thomas Kuner at the same institute and Professor Dr. Nils Brose, Max Planck Institute for Experimental Medicine in Gφttingen, have published their results in the journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).

One hundred billion nerve cells make our brain a thinking machine. Each of these nerve fibers produces a long extension, the axon, which terminates in numerous small knobs. Transmitters are released here that transfer information to the next nerve cell. The contact site between nerve ending and adjacent nerve cell is called a synapse. The number and location of active synapses determine which areas of the brain are especially active at a given time.

Neuroligin-1 protein necessary for maturation

The synapses of young nerve cells must mature before they can release their neurotransmitters to the full extent. Researchers were able to show using genetically modified nerve cells from mice that the postsynaptic nerve cell, the receptor, must form a sufficient amount of a certain protein molecule, neuroligin-1, to allow this maturation process to take place. In addition, the nerve endings from where information is sent must release slight amounts of neurotransmitters to stimulate the neuroligin in the postsynaptic nerve cell.

"A fully functioning contact can develop only if both sides, transmitter and receptor of information, are involved in the maturation process," explained Dr. Dresbach. If no neuroligin-1 is formed, the nerve endings remain at an immature stage and release fewer neurotransmitters; the flow of information is interrupted. The nerve endings can only whisper, so to speak.

Autism caused by a malfunction at the synapses?

"The results are significant for actual concepts about how autism develops," says Professor Dr. Joachim Kirsch, director of the Institute for Anatomy and Cell Biology. Symptoms of autism are first noticed in early childhood as an information processing disorder. The symptoms may be more or less pronounced, but all patients display weaknesses in social contacts and communication. "There are many indications that malfunctions of synaptic molecules are involved in the development of this illness. It has thus far been unclear exactly what these malfunctions are, but we now know what to look for," says Professor Kirsch. The study was funded by the FRONTIER program of the excellence initiative at the University of Heidelberg.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Wittenmayer et al. Postsynaptic Neuroligin1 regulates presynaptic maturation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2009; 106 (32): 13564 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0905819106

Cite This Page:

University Hospital Heidelberg. "Communication problems in the brain." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 January 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100120104004.htm>.
University Hospital Heidelberg. (2010, January 22). Communication problems in the brain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 1, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100120104004.htm
University Hospital Heidelberg. "Communication problems in the brain." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100120104004.htm (accessed March 1, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Rehab Robot Helps Restore Damaged Muscles and Nerves

Rehab Robot Helps Restore Damaged Muscles and Nerves

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Mar. 1, 2015) — A rehabilitation robot prototype to help restore deteriorated nerves and muscles using electromyography and computer games. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could a $34 Smartphone Device Improve HIV Diagnosis in Africa?

Could a $34 Smartphone Device Improve HIV Diagnosis in Africa?

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Feb. 27, 2015) — A dongle that plugs into a Smartphone mimics a lab-based blood test for HIV and syphilis and can detect the diseases in 15 minutes, say researchers. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctor Says Head Transplants Possible Within Two Years

Doctor Says Head Transplants Possible Within Two Years

Buzz60 (Feb. 27, 2015) — An Italian doctor is saying he could stick someone&apos;s head onto someone else&apos;s body. Patrick Jones (@Patrick_E_Jones) reports. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Your Dentist Could Help Screen You For Diabetes

How Your Dentist Could Help Screen You For Diabetes

Newsy (Feb. 27, 2015) — A new study from researchers at New York University suggests dentists could soon use blood samples taken from patients&apos; mouths to test for diabetes. 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