Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Zinc regulates communication between brain cells

Date:
September 21, 2011
Source:
Duke University Medical Center
Summary:
Zinc has been found to play a critical role in regulating communication between cells in the brain, possibly governing the formation of memories and controlling the occurrence of epileptic seizures.

Zinc has been found to play a critical role in regulating communication between cells in the brain, possibly governing the formation of memories and controlling the occurrence of epileptic seizures.

A collaborative project between Duke University Medical Center researchers and chemists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has been able to watch zinc in action as it regulates communication between neurons in the hippocampus, where learning and memory processes occur -- and where disrupted communication may contribute to epilepsy.

"We discovered that zinc is essential to control the efficiency of communication between two critical populations of nerve cells in the hippocampus," said James McNamara, M.D., senior author and chair of the Department of Neurobiology at Duke. "This addresses a longstanding controversy in the field."

The study appeared in Neuron Journal online on Sept. 21.

McNamara noted that zinc supplements are commonly sold over the counter to treat several different brain disorders, including depression. It isn't clear whether these supplements modify zinc content in the brain, or modify the efficiency of communication between these nerve cells. He emphasized that people taking zinc supplements should be cautious, pending needed information on the desired zinc concentrations and how oral supplements affect them.

More than 50 years ago scientists discovered that high concentrations of zinc are contained in a specialized compartment of nerve cells, called vesicles, that package the transmitters which enable nerve cells to communicate. The highest concentrations of brain zinc were found among the neurons of the hippocampus, the center of learning and memory.

Zinc's presence in these vesicles suggested that zinc played some role in communication between nerve cells, but whether it actually did so remained controversial.

To address this controversy, McNamara and his colleagues at Duke teamed up with Dr. Steve Lippard and colleagues in the Department of Chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The Lippard team synthesized a novel chemical that bound zinc far more rapidly and selectively than previously available compounds. Use of this chemical let the Duke team rapidly bind the zinc released by nerve cells, taking it out of circulation and preventing enhanced communication.

The Duke team went on to confirm that eliminating zinc from the vesicles of mutant mice also prevented enhanced communication. They also found that increases in the transmitter glutamate seemed to increase zinc-mediated enhancement of communication.

Interestingly, the nerve cells in which the high concentrations of zinc reside are critical for a particular type of memory formation. Excessive enhancement of communication by the zinc-containing nerve cells occurs in epileptic animals and may worsen the severity of the epilepsy.

"Carefully controlling zinc's regulation of communication between these nerve cells is critical to both formation of memories and perhaps to occurrence of epileptic seizures," McNamara said.

McNamara also noted that the scientific collaboration between the Duke and MIT scientists was critical to the success of this work. The availability of the novel chemical provided a critical tool that allowed the neuroscientists to unravel the puzzle.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Enhui Pan, Xiao-an Zhang, Zhen Huang, Artur Krezel, Min Zhao, ChristineE. Tinberg, StephenJ. Lippard, JamesO. McNamara. Vesicular Zinc Promotes Presynaptic and Inhibits Postsynaptic Long-Term Potentiation of Mossy Fiber-CA3 Synapse. Neuron, 2011; 71 (6): 1116 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2011.07.019

Cite This Page:

Duke University Medical Center. "Zinc regulates communication between brain cells." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 September 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110921132334.htm>.
Duke University Medical Center. (2011, September 21). Zinc regulates communication between brain cells. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110921132334.htm
Duke University Medical Center. "Zinc regulates communication between brain cells." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110921132334.htm (accessed September 2, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

U.N. Says Ebola Travel Restrictions Will Cause Food Shortage

U.N. Says Ebola Travel Restrictions Will Cause Food Shortage

Newsy (Sep. 2, 2014) The U.N. says the problem is two-fold — quarantine zones and travel restrictions are limiting the movement of both people and food. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Get on Your Bike! London Cycling Popularity Soars Despite Danger

Get on Your Bike! London Cycling Popularity Soars Despite Danger

AFP (Sep. 1, 2014) Wedged between buses, lorries and cars, cycling in London isn't for the faint hearted. Nevertheless the number of people choosing to bike in the British capital has doubled over the past 15 years. Duration: 02:27 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Can You Train Your Brain To Eat Healthy?

Can You Train Your Brain To Eat Healthy?

Newsy (Sep. 1, 2014) New research says if you condition yourself to eat healthy foods, eventually you'll crave them instead of junk food. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
We've Got Mites Living In Our Faces And So Do You

We've Got Mites Living In Our Faces And So Do You

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) A new study suggests 100 percent of adult humans (those over 18 years of age) have Demodex mites living in their faces. 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