Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

A molecular switch for memory and addiction

Date:
December 4, 2010
Source:
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Summary:
Scientists from Germany, the UK and Italy identify a molecular switch that leads to a sustained increase of calcium in nerve cells and plays a crucial role in the formation of memory and addictive behaviors.

Scientists from Germany, UK and Italy identify a molecular switch that leads to a sustained increase of calcium in nerve cells and plays a crucial role in the formation of memory and addictive behaviors.

Learning and memory formation are based on the creation of new connections between neurons in the brain. Also, behaviors such as nicotine addiction manifest themselves in long-term changes of neuronal connectivity and can – at least in this respect – be viewed as a form of learning. A team around Pierluigi Nicotera, scientific director of the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) and collaborating laboratories at the MRC, UK and University of Modena, Italy have now discovered a molecular switch that plays a crucial role in establishing addictive behavior and memory processes. These results may contribute to new strategies for preventing memory loss or treating addictive behavior.

The study is published online in EMBO Journal on November 26th.

Neuronal signals are passed from one nerve cell to the next in form of chemical compounds called neurotransmitters. This signal transmission is a first step and prerequisite for any learning process in the brain. It induces a sequence of events in the downstream cell that eventually lead to changes in neuronal connectivity and thus to memory consolidation. Also nicotine or cocaine can trigger the rearrangement of brain connections in an equivalent manner.

A first step in the induction of neuronal plasticity – the formation of new connections in the brain – involves calcium. As a response to neurotransmitters, nicotine or cocaine, calcium increases at the site of neuronal connection, the synapse. In a second step, this calcium increase will induce gene expression – the synthesis of proteins that will lead to new or reinforced synaptic connectivity. It has been generally accepted that the increase of calcium is only part of the first step in this process and does not depend on gene expression. Pierluigi Nicotera and his colleagues now challenge this idea. Their study shows that the expression of genes involved in calcium signaling is required to induce plasticity in nerve cells after repeated stimulation with nicotine or cocaine.

The scientists found that nicotine administration to mice induces the expression of a gene called type 2 ryanodine receptor (RyR2). RyR2 protein is involved in releasing calcium from a cell internal calcium store, the endoplasmic reticulum, thus leading to a long-lasting reinforcement of calcium signaling in a self-sustained manner. This sustained calcium-increase then leads to neuronal plasticity. Specifically, RyR2 is expressed in a number of brain areas associated with cognition and addiction as the cortex and ventral midbrain, suggesting that RyR2 induction plays a pivotal role in these processes. This idea was confirmed in an additional experiment, in which the authors of the study demonstrate that a reduction of RyR2-activation in living animals abolishes behavior associated with learning, memory and addiction. This shows that RyR2 is absolutely required to develop long-term changes in the brain that lead to addiction.

These results are a major step forwards in understanding the molecular processes underlying memory and addiction. On the long run, the scientists hope that these insights will contribute to the development of therapies for the treatment of addictive disorders or strategies to counteract memory loss in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease.



Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Elena Ziviani, Giordano Lippi, Daniele Bano, Eliana Munarriz, Stefania Guiducci, Michele Zoli, Kenneth W Young, Pierluigi Nicotera. Ryanodine receptor-2 upregulation and nicotine-mediated plasticity. The EMBO Journal, 2010; 30 (1): 194 DOI: 10.1038/emboj.2010.279

Cite This Page:

Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres. "A molecular switch for memory and addiction." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 December 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101129111832.htm>.
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres. (2010, December 4). A molecular switch for memory and addiction. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101129111832.htm
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres. "A molecular switch for memory and addiction." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101129111832.htm (accessed October 20, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Monday, October 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Microneedle Patch Promises Painless Pricks

Microneedle Patch Promises Painless Pricks

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 18, 2014) Researchers at The National University of Singapore have invented a new microneedle patch that could offer a faster and less painful delivery of drugs such as insulin and painkillers. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Nurse Nina Pham Arrives in Maryland

Raw: Nurse Nina Pham Arrives in Maryland

AP (Oct. 17, 2014) The first nurse to be diagnosed with Ebola at a Dallas hospital walked down the stairs of an executive jet into an ambulance at an airport in Frederick, Maryland, on Thursday. Pham will be treated at the National Institutes of Health. (Oct. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Cruise Ship Returns to US Over Ebola Fears

Raw: Cruise Ship Returns to US Over Ebola Fears

AP (Oct. 17, 2014) A Caribbean cruise ship carrying a Dallas health care worker who is being monitored for signs of the Ebola virus is heading back to Texas, US, after being refused permission to dock in Cozumel, Mexico. (Oct. 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Spanish Govt: Four Suspected Ebola Cases in Spain Test Negative

Spanish Govt: Four Suspected Ebola Cases in Spain Test Negative

AFP (Oct. 17, 2014) All four suspected Ebola cases admitted to hospitals in Spain on Thursday have tested negative for the deadly virus in a first round of tests, the government said Friday. Duration: 00:55 Video provided by AFP
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