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 July 31, 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 July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Health Insurers' Profits Slide

Health Insurers' Profits Slide

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 30, 2014) Obamacare-related costs were said to be behind the profit plunge at Wellpoint and Humana, but Wellpoint sees the new exchanges boosting its earnings for the full year. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

AFP (July 30, 2014) Pan-African airline ASKY has suspended all flights to and from the capitals of Liberia and Sierra Leone amid the worsening Ebola health crisis, which has so far caused 672 deaths in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Duration: 00:43 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

AP (July 30, 2014) At least 20 New Jersey residents have tested positive for chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus that has spread through the Caribbean. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Xtreme Eating: Your Daily Caloric Intake All On One Plate

Xtreme Eating: Your Daily Caloric Intake All On One Plate

Newsy (July 30, 2014) The Center for Science in the Public Interest released its 2014 list of single meals with whopping calorie counts. 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