Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Molecular basis of touch sensation: Researchers identify new function of a well-known gene

Date:
February 21, 2012
Source:
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Summary:
A gene known to control lens development in mice and humans is also crucial for the development of neurons responsible for mechanosensory function, as neurobiologists have now discovered. They found that in mice in which they had removed the c-Maf gene in the nerve cells, touch sensation is impaired. This similarly applies to human carriers of a mutant c-Maf gene.

Mechanosensory endings of nerve cells in the skin detect touch stimuli. Here various nerve endings (red and green) nestle around the shaft of a hair (grey, fibrous structure), which is anchored in a hair follicle. The nerve endings are stimulated by movements of the hair. The mechanical stimulus is converted into electrical signals which are transmitted to the brain.
Credit: Hagen Wende/Copyright: MDC

A gene known to control lens development in mice and humans is also crucial for the development of neurons responsible for mechanosensory function, as neurobiologists of the Max Delbrόck Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch have now discovered. They found that in mice in which they had removed the c-Maf gene in the nerve cells, touch sensation is impaired.

This similarly applies to human carriers of a mutant c-Maf gene. People with such a mutation suffer already at a young age from cataracts, a clouding of the lens which typically affects the elderly. The patients, as demonstrated by Professor Carmen Birchmeier and Dr. Hagen Wende in collaboration with Professor Gary Lewin and Dr. Stefan Lechner, have difficulty holding objects such as a sheet of paper as a consequence of this mutation.

Professor Birchmeier, a developmental biologist, commented on the findings of her research group: "c-Maf is an important gene for the development of the peripheral nerve cells." The gene controls the development of neurons that detect touch, the mechanosensory neurons. Previously, c-Maf was known as a key regulator of lens development.

Furthermore, the gene is also active in the dorsal root ganglia, an aggregate of nerve cells next to the spinal cord in which the cell bodies of mechanosensory neurons are localized. The nerve cells form long axons, which terminate in the skin in touch corpuscles or at hair shafts. These axons detect mechanical stimuli, which in turn are converted into electrical signals and transmitted to the brain. When you stroke your fingers over a surface, its structure triggers high-frequency vibrations in the finger, to which specific touch receptors, the Pacinian corpuscles, respond.

In mice with deactivated c-Maf gene only few Pacinian corpuscles are formed, and moreover these few are not intact. The mice are therefore unable to recognize high-frequency vibrations. The same is true for a Swiss family with an inherited mutant c-Maf gene. The consequence is that the affected patients develop cataracts at an early age and have an impaired sense of touch.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. H. Wende, S. G. Lechner, C. Cheret, S. Bourane, M. E. Kolanczyk, A. Pattyn, K. Reuter, F. L. Munier, P. Carroll, G. R. Lewin, C. Birchmeier. The Transcription Factor c-Maf Controls Touch Receptor Development and Function. Science, 2012; DOI: 10.1126/science.1214314

Cite This Page:

Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres. "Molecular basis of touch sensation: Researchers identify new function of a well-known gene." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 February 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120221124823.htm>.
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres. (2012, February 21). Molecular basis of touch sensation: Researchers identify new function of a well-known gene. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120221124823.htm
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres. "Molecular basis of touch sensation: Researchers identify new function of a well-known gene." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120221124823.htm (accessed September 16, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Some Tobacco Farmers Thrive Amid Challenges

Some Tobacco Farmers Thrive Amid Challenges

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) — The South's tobacco country is surviving, and even thriving in some cases, as demand overseas keeps growers in the fields of one of America's oldest cash crops. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Given Rare Glimpse of 350-Kilo Colossal Squid

Scientists Given Rare Glimpse of 350-Kilo Colossal Squid

AFP (Sep. 16, 2014) — Scientists say a female colossal squid weighing an estimated 350 kilograms (770 lbs) and thought to be only the second intact specimen ever found was carrying eggs when discovered in the Antarctic. Duration: 00:47 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) — Squid experts in New Zealand thawed and examined an unusual catch on Tuesday: a colossal squid. It was captured in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea in December last year and has been frozen for eight months. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ivorians Abandon Monkey Pets in Fear Over Ebola Virus

Ivorians Abandon Monkey Pets in Fear Over Ebola Virus

AFP (Sep. 16, 2014) — Since the arrival of Ebola in Ivory Coast, Ivorians have been abandoning their pets, particularly monkeys, in the fear that they may transmit the virus. Duration: 00:47 Video provided by AFP
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