Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Partnership of genes affects the brain's development

Date:
February 14, 2011
Source:
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Summary:
The human brain consists of approximately one hundred billion nerve cells. Each of these cells needs to connect to specific other cells during the brain's development in order to form a fully functional organism. Yet how does a nerve cell know where it should grow and which cells to contact? Scientists have now shown that growing nerve cells realize when they've reached their target area in the fly brain thanks to the interaction of two genes. Similar mechanisms are also likely to play a role during the development of the vertebrate brain and could thus be important for a better understanding of certain developmental disorders.

The photoreceptor nerve cells (green) of the fly's compound eye send their axons to the brain's optic ganglia. Scientists have now discovered that the axons are able to recognize their target area in the brain thanks to the interaction of two genes.
Credit: Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology / Suzuki

The human brain consists of approximately one hundred billion nerve cells. Each of these cells needs to connect to specific other cells during the brain's development in order to form a fully functional organism. Yet how does a nerve cell know where it should grow and which cells to contact? Scientists of the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Martinsried have now shown that growing nerve cells realise when they've reached their target area in the fly brain thanks to the interaction of two genes.

Similar mechanisms are also likely to play a role during the development of the vertebrate brain and could thus be important for a better understanding of certain developmental disorders.

The nervous system is incredibly complex. Millions and even many billion nerve cells are created during development. Each of these cells sets up connections to their neighbouring cells and then sends out a long connecting cable, the axon, to a different brain region. Once the axon has reached its target area it connects itself with the local nerve cells. In this way a processing chain is established which allows us, for example, to see a cup, recognize it as such, reach out and take hold of it. Had there been a misconnection between the nerve cells somewhere along the way between the eyes and the hand, it would be impossible to reach the coffee in the cup.

It is thus essential for nerve cells to connect to the correct partner cells. Based on this fact, scientists of the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Martinsried and colleagues from Kyoto investigated how an axon knows where it should stop growing and start setting up connections with surrounding cells. For their investigation, the neurobiologists analyzed the function of genes that play a role in the development of the visual system of the fruit fly.

The scientists now report in the scientific journal Nature Neuroscience that the visual system of the fruit fly is only able to develop correctly, when two genes work together -- the genes, that are in charge of producing the proteins "Golden Goal" and "Flamingo." These two proteins are located at the tip of a growing axon, where they are believed to gather information about their environment from the surrounding tissue. The actions of these two proteins enable nerve cells in a number of ways to find their way in the brain and recognize their target area. The study showed that chaos results if only one of the genes is active, or if there is a mismatch in the genes' activity: the axons cease to grow somewhere along the way and never reach their target area.

"We assume that very similar mechanisms play a role also in other organisms -- including humans," explains Takashi Suzuki, lead author of the study. "We are now a good way into understanding how to manipulate the cells in such a way that they are certain to reach their target area." This knowledge would be an important foundation for eventual therapies of developmental disorders based upon a misguided growth of nerve cells. The knowledge may also help in the guidance of regenerating nerve cells back to their old connection sites.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Satoko Hakeda-Suzuki, Sandra Berger-Mόller, Tatiana Tomasi, Tadao Usui, Shin-ya Horiuchi, Tadashi Uemura, Takashi Suzuki. Golden Goal collaborates with Flamingo in conferring synaptic-layer specificity in the visual system. Nature Neuroscience, 2011; DOI: 10.1038/nn.2756

Cite This Page:

Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. "Partnership of genes affects the brain's development." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 February 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110213162735.htm>.
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. (2011, February 14). Partnership of genes affects the brain's development. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110213162735.htm
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. "Partnership of genes affects the brain's development." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110213162735.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) — The FDA approved Targiniq ER on Wednesday, a painkiller designed to keep users from abusing it. Like any new medication, however, it has doubters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctor At Forefront Of Fighting Ebola Outbreak Gets Ebola

Doctor At Forefront Of Fighting Ebola Outbreak Gets Ebola

Newsy (July 24, 2014) — Sheik Umar Khan has treated many of the people infected in the Ebola outbreak, and now he's become one of them. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Condemned Man's US Execution Takes Nearly Two Hours

Condemned Man's US Execution Takes Nearly Two Hours

AFP (July 24, 2014) — America's death penalty debate raged Thursday after it took nearly two hours for Arizona to execute a prisoner who lost a Supreme Court battle challenging the experimental lethal drug cocktail. Duration: 00:55 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Can Watching TV Make You Feel Like A Failure?

Can Watching TV Make You Feel Like A Failure?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) — A study by German researchers claims watching TV while you're stressed out can make you feel guilty and like a failure. 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