Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Mechanism by which chronic stress causes brain disease identified

Date:
June 29, 2011
Source:
University of Southern California
Summary:
Chronic stress has long been linked with neurodegeneration. Scientists at now think they may know why.

Chronic stress has long been linked with neurodegeneration. Scientists at USC now think they may know why. The study, which has tremendous implications for understanding and treating Alzheimer's disease, was published in the June issue of The FASEB Journal (the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology).

Corresponding author Kelvin J. A. Davies, the James E. Birren Chair at the USC Davis School of Gerontology, and Professor of Molecular & Computational Biology in the USC Dornsife College, examined the brains of rats that had experienced psychological stresses and found high levels of the RCAN1 gene. Davies and his colleagues suggest that chronic stress -- physical or mental -- causes overexpression of RCAN1, in turn leading to neurodegenerative disease.

Think of a gene as a pattern or mold that generates specific proteins. For example, if 200 RCAN1 proteins are built where only 100 were needed, scientists would describe this as "overexpression" of the RCAN1 gene.

In a healthy person, the RCAN1 gene helps cells cope with stress. Overproduction, however, can eventually damage neurons, preventing the brain's signals from traveling and causing disease.

Chronic overproduction of RCAN1 causes hyper-phosphorylation of tau proteins in the brain.

Tau proteins stabilize microtubules, which are like the scaffolding used to build the brain's neurons. Previous research has shown that when the tau protein binds too much phosphate -- a process called hyperphosphorylation -- it forms snarls that prevent the brain's signals from effectively traveling.

"One can imagine that it becomes sticky and makes tangled scaffolding," Davies said.

These neurofibrillary tangles eventually choke the life out of neurons, killing off brain function a tiny piece at a time in what is outwardly recognized as degenerative brain disease.

Currently, there are two competing theories about the leading cause of neurodegeneration in Alzheimer's disease: overproduction of the Amyloid Beta peptide and tau hyperphosphorylation. Research in the Davies lab suggests that overexpression of RCAN1 is connected to both, and appears to unite the Amyloid Beta and tau theories of neurodegeneration.

"Both are clearly important, and RCAN1 could be the link," Davies said.

RCAN1 has been shown to be chronically overexpressed from birth in the brains of patients with Down syndrome. These patients develop neurofibrillary tangles and typically start to experience the onset of Alzheimer's disease around age 40.

Davies' lab has also shown a connection between too little RCAN1 production and Huntington's disease. "Our results suggest that the cellular levels of RCAN1 proteins must be kept within a fairly narrow range in order to avoid serious dysfunction," Davies said.

"By publishing this hypothesis, we hope to stimulate more research on the subject," he said.

USC teamed up with scientists from Monash University of Australia and the Institute of Nuclear Sciences in Serbia on this study. The article is based on research that was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the CHDI Foundation, Inc.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. G. Ermak, M. A. Pritchard, S. Dronjak, B. Niu, K. J. A. Davies. Do RCAN1 proteins link chronic stress with neurodegeneration? The FASEB Journal, 2011; DOI: 10.1096/fj.11-185728

Cite This Page:

University of Southern California. "Mechanism by which chronic stress causes brain disease identified." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 June 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110629091640.htm>.
University of Southern California. (2011, June 29). Mechanism by which chronic stress causes brain disease identified. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 15, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110629091640.htm
University of Southern California. "Mechanism by which chronic stress causes brain disease identified." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110629091640.htm (accessed September 15, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Monday, September 15, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

AP (Sep. 15, 2014) The FDA is considering whether to ban devices used by the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton, Massachusetts, the only place in the country known to use electrical skin shocks as aversive conditioning for aggressive patients. (Sept. 15) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Newsy (Sep. 13, 2014) A U.K. survey found that journalists consumed the most amount of coffee, but that's only the tip of the coffee-related statistics iceberg. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) In a small study, researchers found that the majority of long-time smokers quit after taking psilocybin pills and undergoing therapy sessions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Fat Shaming' Might Actually Cause Weight Gain

'Fat Shaming' Might Actually Cause Weight Gain

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) A study for University College London suggests obese people who are discriminated against gain more weight than those who are not. 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