Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Skywalker enzyme ensures optimal communication between neurons

Date:
April 2, 2011
Source:
VIB (the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology)
Summary:
Scientists have discovered the mechanism that ensures neurons can continue to send the right signals for long consecutive periods -- a process that is disrupted in neurological diseases such as Parkinson's. They discovered that an enzyme called Skywalker controls the subtle balance in communication.

Analogous image. This image depicts a boiling mud pool in Reykjanes, Iceland. The small bubbles represent synaptic vesicles.
Credit: Copyright Patrik Verstreken

Patrik Verstreken (VIB/K.U.Leuven) has discovered the mechanism that ensures neurons can continue to send the right signals for long consecutive periods -- a process that is disrupted in neurological diseases such as Parkinson's. Verstreken and his colleagues discovered that an enzyme called Skywalker controls the subtle balance in communication.

"I hope that unraveling the way Skywalker works will not only teach us more about the way neurons communicate with each other but will also lead to new diagnostics and therapies for neurological diseases such as Parkinson's," says Verstreken.

Communication between brain cells

Brain disorders take a major toll on society. More than 8% of the population in the West depends on analgesics. Twenty per cent suffers from a mental disturbance and the number of people suffering from the effects of neurological diseases is estimated at 1 billion. Many of these problems are caused by the disruption of communication between brain cells. Hence, finding a solution depends on understanding this communication in the smallest details.

Communication between brain cells occurs at the synapses, where an electrical signal is passed via a vesicle (a small membrane-enclosed sac with signaling substances). The vesicle releases the signaling substances, thus activating another brain cell.

An eye for the proper balance

The vesicles are reused several times. This results in the gradual degradation of the proteins they need for carrying out their function properly, which in turn affects the release of signaling substances. How the vesicles are kept operational during this recycling process was a mystery until now. Most types of cells have incorporated an extra step into this recycling process via special cell compartments called endosomes. In the endosomes, vesicle proteins are sorted to ensure optimal functioning of the recycled vesicles.

However, it was not clear whether this extra step was relevant for vesicle recycling in brain cells. Various studies seemed to demonstrate that it was in fact missing in brain cells.

Skywalker regulates communication between brain cells

Patrik Verstreken and his colleagues have now discovered an enzyme, christened Skywalker, which regulates this extra step. The VIB researchers tested fruit flies unable to produce Skywalker. In these so-called sky flies, they noticed that broken-down proteins from the vesicles were more easily replaced, and that many more signaling substances were released than in the synapses of normal fruit flies. In other words, a lack of Skywalker increases the signal between two brain cells, resulting in overstressed flies.

But the discovery that inhibition of Skywalker leads to a stronger signal between brain cells offers possibilities for the fight against neurological diseases such as Parkinson's. In the early stages of these diseases, the signals between brain cells are too weak. Verstreken wants to study this further, but realizes that it will be an enormous challenge to find ways to maintain the subtle balance that ensures optimal communication.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by VIB (the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Valerie Uytterhoeven, Sabine Kuenen, Jaroslaw Kasprowicz, Katarzyna Miskiewicz, Patrik Verstreken. Loss of Skywalker reveals synaptic endosomes as sorting stations for synaptic vesicle proteins. Cell, Volume 145, Issue 1, 117-132, 1 April 2011 DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2011.02.039

Cite This Page:

VIB (the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology). "Skywalker enzyme ensures optimal communication between neurons." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 April 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110401111356.htm>.
VIB (the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology). (2011, April 2). Skywalker enzyme ensures optimal communication between neurons. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110401111356.htm
VIB (the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology). "Skywalker enzyme ensures optimal communication between neurons." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110401111356.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