Newly identified protein complex sheds light on axon growth mechanism

May 24, 2006

New research sheds light on the molecular mechanisms underlying axon growth and synapse formation in the nematode worm C.elegans. In a study published today in the open access journal Journal of Biology, researchers have characterised a new protein, UNC-69, required for proper locomotion . They show that UNC-69 interacts with UNC-76 in a protein complex likely to be involved in the trafficking of vesicles along axons - a process that drives axon growth and helps synapse formation. The research also shows that UNC-69 is directly involved in the formation of new synapses.

A group led by Michael Hengartner, from the University of Zurich in Switzerland, cloned and characterised UNC-69, a previously known protein that had never been characterised. By studying mutants lacking unc-69 they show that the protein is widely expressed in the C.elegans nervous system and is required for normal axon development.

Hengartner and colleagues then show that UNC-69 physically interacts with another protein expressed in the nervous system, UNC-76. Through experiments on double mutant combinations, the authors show that the two proteins cooperate to regulate axon development. The authors also show that UNC-69 is needed for the formation or maintenance of new synapses.

It is known that UNC-76 binds to molecular 'motor' proteins called kinesins that transport vesicles along growing axons. Hengartner and colleagues propose that the UNC-69/UNC-76 complex may be implicated in vesicle trafficking, a process that is necessary for axon growth and new synapse formation.
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Article:
The short coiled-coil domain-containing protein UNC-69 cooperates with UNC-76 to regulate axonal outgrowth and normal presynaptic organization in Caenorhabditis elegans
Cheng-Wen Su, Suzanne Tharin, Yishi Jin, Bruce Wightman, Mona Spector, David Meili, Nancy Tsung, Christa Rhiner, Dimitris Bourikas, Esther Stoeckli, Gian Garriga, H Robert Horvitz and Michael O Hengartner
Journal of Biology 2006, 5:9 (25 May 2006)
http://jbiol.com/

BioMed Central

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