Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Gene critical for development of brain motor center found

Date:
June 20, 2014
Source:
Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
Summary:
A research team describes a gene called Snf2h, which is found in our brain's neural stem cells and functions as a master regulator. When they removed this gene early on in a mouse's development, its cerebellum only grew to one-third the normal size. It also had difficulty walking, balancing and coordinating its movements, something called cerebellar ataxia that is a component of many neurodegenerative diseases.

Led by Dr. David Picketts, a senior scientist at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and professor in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Ottawa, the team describes the Snf2h gene, which is found in our brain's neural stem cells and functions as a master regulator.
Credit: Image courtesy of Ottawa Hospital Research Institute

In a report published in Nature Communications, an Ottawa-led team of researchers describe the role of a specific gene, called Snf2h, in the development of the cerebellum. Snf2h is required for the proper development of a healthy cerebellum, a master control centre in the brain for balance, fine motor control and complex physical movements.

Athletes and artists perform their extraordinary feats relying on the cerebellum. As well, the cerebellum is critical for the everyday tasks and activities that we perform, such as walking, eating and driving a car. By removing Snf2h, researchers found that the cerebellum was smaller than normal, and balance and refined movements were compromised.

Led by Dr. David Picketts, a senior scientist at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and professor in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Ottawa, the team describes the Snf2h gene, which is found in our brain's neural stem cells and functions as a master regulator. When they removed this gene early on in a mouse's development, its cerebellum only grew to one-third the normal size. It also had difficulty walking, balancing and coordinating its movements, something called cerebellar ataxia that is a component of many neurodegenerative diseases.

"As these cerebellar stem cells divide, on their journey toward becoming specialized neurons, this master gene is responsible for deciding which genes are turned on and which genes are packed tightly away," said Dr. Picketts. "Without Snf2h there to keep things organized, genes that should be packed away are left turned on, while other genes are not properly activated. This disorganization within the cell's nucleus results in a neuron that doesn't perform very well -- like a car running on five cylinders instead of six."

The cerebellum contains roughly half the neurons found in the brain. It also develops in response to external stimuli. So, as we practice tasks, certain genes or groups of genes are turned on and off, which strengthens these circuits and helps to stabilize or perfect the task being undertaken. The researchers found that the Snf2h gene orchestrates this complex and ongoing process. These master genes, which adapt to external cues to adjust the genes they turn on and off, are known as epigenetic regulators.

"These epigenetic regulators are known to affect memory, behaviour and learning," said Dr. Picketts. "Without Snf2h, not enough cerebellar neurons are produced, and the ones that are produced do not respond and adapt as well to external signals. They also show a progressively disorganized gene expression profile that results in cerebellar ataxia and the premature death of the animal."

There are no studies showing a direct link between Snf2h mutations and diseases with cerebellar ataxia, but Dr. Picketts added that it "is certainly possible and an interesting avenue to explore."

In 2012, Developmental Cell published a paper by Dr. Picketts' team showing that mice lacking the sister gene Snf2l were completely normal, but had larger brains, more cells in all areas of the brain and more actively dividing brain stem cells. The balance between Snf2l and Snf2h gene activity is necessary for controlling brain size and for establishing the proper gene expression profiles that underlie the function of neurons in different regions, including the cerebellum.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Ottawa Hospital Research Institute. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Matνas Alvarez-Saavedra, Yves De Repentigny, Pamela S. Lagali, Edupuganti V. S. Raghu Ram, Keqin Yan, Emile Hashem, Danton Ivanochko, Michael S. Huh, Doo Yang, Alan J. Mears, Matthew A. M. Todd, Chelsea P. Corcoran, Erin A. Bassett, Nicholas J. A. Tokarew, Juraj Kokavec, Romit Majumder, Ilya Ioshikhes, Valerie A. Wallace, Rashmi Kothary, Eran Meshorer, Tomas Stopka, Arthur I. Skoultchi, David J. Picketts. Snf2h-mediated chromatin organization and histone H1 dynamics govern cerebellar morphogenesis and neural maturation. Nature Communications, 2014; 5 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms5181

Cite This Page:

Ottawa Hospital Research Institute. "Gene critical for development of brain motor center found." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 June 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140620163303.htm>.
Ottawa Hospital Research Institute. (2014, June 20). Gene critical for development of brain motor center found. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140620163303.htm
Ottawa Hospital Research Institute. "Gene critical for development of brain motor center found." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140620163303.htm (accessed October 23, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Orthodontist Mom Jennifer Salzer on the Best Time for Braces

Orthodontist Mom Jennifer Salzer on the Best Time for Braces

Working Mother (Oct. 22, 2014) — Is your child ready? Video provided by Working Mother
Powered by NewsLook.com
U.S. Issues Ebola Travel Restrictions, Are Visa Bans Next?

U.S. Issues Ebola Travel Restrictions, Are Visa Bans Next?

Newsy (Oct. 22, 2014) — Now that the U.S. is restricting travel from West Africa, some are dropping questions about a travel ban and instead asking about visa bans. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
US to Track Everyone Coming from Ebola Nations

US to Track Everyone Coming from Ebola Nations

AP (Oct. 22, 2014) — Stepping up their vigilance against Ebola, federal authorities said Wednesday that everyone traveling into the US from Ebola-stricken nations will be monitored for symptoms for 21 days. (Oct. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctors Help Paralysed Man Walk Again, Patient in Disbelief

Doctors Help Paralysed Man Walk Again, Patient in Disbelief

AFP (Oct. 22, 2014) — Polish doctors describe how they helped a paralysed man walk again, with the patient in disbelief at the return of sensation to his legs. Duration: 1:04 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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

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