Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Unusual alliances enable movement

Date:
February 8, 2012
Source:
Georgia Health Sciences University
Summary:
Some unusual alliances are necessary for you to wiggle your fingers, researchers report. Understanding those relationships should enable better treatment of neuromuscular diseases, such as myasthenia gravis, which prevent muscles from taking orders from your brain. Scientists have now solved one of the riddles.

Some unusual alliances are necessary for you to wiggle your fingers, researchers report. Understanding those relationships should enable better treatment of neuromuscular diseases, such as myasthenia gravis, which prevent muscles from taking orders from your brain, said Dr. Lin Mei, Director of the Institute of Molecular Medicine and Genetics at Georgia Health Sciences University.

During development, neurons in the spinal cord reach out to muscle fibers to form a direct line of communication called the neuromuscular junction. Once complete, motor neurons send chemical messengers, called acetylcholine, via that junction so you can text, walk or breathe.

As a first step in laying down the junction, motor neurons release the protein agrin, which reaches out to LRP4, a protein on the muscle cell surface. This activates MuSK, an enzyme that supports the clustering of receptors on the muscle cell surface that will enable communication between the brain and muscle. The precise alignment between the neuron and muscle cell that occurs during development ensures there is no confusion about what the brain is telling the muscle to do.

A missing piece was how agrin and LRP4 get together.

A study published in the journal Genes & Development shows that in the space between the neuron and its muscle cell, agrin and LRP4 first form two diverse work teams: each team has one agrin and one LRP4. The two teams then merge to form a four-molecule complex essential to MuSK activation and to the clustering of receptors that will receive the chemical messenger acetylcholine on the muscle cell.

It was expected that the two agrins would get together first then prompt the LRP4s to merge. "This is very novel," said Mei, and an important finding in efforts to intervene in diseases that attack the neuromuscular junction.

Mei and Dr. Rongsheng Jin, neuroscientist and structural biologist in the Del E. Webb Neuroscience, Aging and Stem Cell Research Center at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., are co-corresponding authors of the study.

Myasthenia gravis, which paralyzes previously healthy individuals, targets these protein workers. The condition, which can run in families, likely results from a process called mimicry in which the immune system starts making antibodies to the workers, which it confuses with a previous viral or bacterial infection. The majority of patients have antibodies to acetylcholine receptors and a smaller percentage have antibodies to MuSK. Most recently, GHSU researchers also helped identify LRP4 as an antibody target.

The scientists already are looking at the impact of the antibodies on the LRP4 complex. Understanding its unique structure is essential to designing drugs that could one day block such attacks. "Prior to this we had no idea how they interacted," Mei said.

In addition to providing new information on muscle diseases, this study might also have a far-reaching ripple effect in the field of neuroscience.

"This is just the beginning," says Jin. "Now that we know more about how signals are transferred during the formation of neuromuscular junctions, we can start looking at how a similar system might work in brain synapses and how it malfunctions in neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. If we can figure out how to trigger the formation of new brain synapses, maintain old synapses, or simply slow their disappearance, we'd be much better equipped to prevent or treat these diseases."

To reveal the novel mechanism, researchers used a technique known as X-ray crystallography, which produces 3-D "pictures" of protein at the atomic level using powerful X-ray beams.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Georgia Health Sciences University. The original article was written by Toni Baker. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Y. Zong, B. Zhang, S. Gu, K. Lee, J. Zhou, G. Yao, D. Figueiredo, K. Perry, L. Mei, R. Jin. Structural basis of agrin-LRP4-MuSK signaling. Genes & Development, 2012; 26 (3): 247 DOI: 10.1101/gad.180885.111

Cite This Page:

Georgia Health Sciences University. "Unusual alliances enable movement." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 February 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120208102729.htm>.
Georgia Health Sciences University. (2012, February 8). Unusual alliances enable movement. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120208102729.htm
Georgia Health Sciences University. "Unusual alliances enable movement." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120208102729.htm (accessed April 18, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Friday, April 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Obama: 8 Million Healthcare Signups

Obama: 8 Million Healthcare Signups

AP (Apr. 17, 2014) President Barack Obama gave a briefing Thursday announcing 8 million people have signed up under the Affordable Care Act. He blasted continued Republican efforts to repeal the law. (April 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Is Apathy A Sign Of A Shrinking Brain?

Is Apathy A Sign Of A Shrinking Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) A recent study links apathetic feelings to a smaller brain. Researchers say the results indicate a need for apathy screening for at-risk seniors. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A new study conducted by researchers at Northwestern and Harvard suggests even casual marijuana use can alter your brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Thousands Of Vials Of SARS Virus Go Missing

Thousands Of Vials Of SARS Virus Go Missing

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A research institute in Paris somehow misplaced more than 2,000 vials of the deadly SARS virus. 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