Nav: Home

Cell type and environment influence protein turnover in the brain

June 19, 2018

Scientists have revealed that protein molecules in the brain are broken down and replaced at different rates, depending on where in the brain they are.

The study, published in eLife, provides essential insights into how the components of different cells in the brain are altered. These kinds of alterations may be important in our abilities to learn and form memories, especially as protein turnover plays a crucial role in these processes.

Proteins are the mechanical engines of the cell, carrying out many essential functions. The 'turnover' of proteins in a cell is balanced by how much protein is manufactured and how much is broken down. Under normal conditions, this turnover is continuous, and ensures that damaged proteins can be removed and replaced by new ones. It also gives a cell the ability to change its entire proteome - all the proteins it contains - to respond quickly to internal and external signals, such as hormones or electrical impulses.

Protein turnover ensures that synapses - the structures that allow an electrical or chemical impulse from one nerve cell to another - remain flexible. This phenomenon, called 'synaptic plasticity', is important for maintaining the brain's ability to create new nerve networks, which in turn allows us to create new memories or learn new behaviours and skills.

"It is known that proteins can show very different turnover rates in different tissues or different cell types of the same organism, but little is known about protein turnover rates in different cell types of the brain, and how they affect each other," explains lead author Aline Dörrbaum, graduate student at the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research, Germany.

To address this, the team grew cells from the hippocampus region of the brain and used isotopically labelled amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) to determine the 'half-life' of proteins. This was measured by how quickly the 'heavy'-labelled proteins appeared in the cells as the proteins were made, and how quickly the natural 'light' proteins disappeared as they were broken down. The team obtained half-life measurements for over 5,100 protein groups from different neuronal culture types that contained a mixture of neurons and glia cells (which support and provide insulation between neurons). All samples contained both neurons and glia cells, but in different proportions.

They found the half-lives varied greatly - from less than a day (fast turnover) to more than 20 days (slow turnover) - and that this depended on the location of the protein in the cell. Proteins nearer the surface of the cell, often involved in communication, were shorter-lived and proteins involved in energy metabolism were longer-lived compared to the overall protein population.

Of particular note, the researchers found that an identical protein expressed in glia cells had a much faster turnover rate than when it was expressed in neuron cells. A subset of proteins also had faster or slower turnover rates when there were more glial cells in the environment.

"Our results demonstrate that both the cell-type of origin as well as the nature of the environment outside the cell have powerful influences on protein turnover," concludes senior author Professor Erin Schuman, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research. "Our next goal is to determine how nerve plasticity regulates and exploits turnover to modify the brain proteomes in response to different stimuli."
-end-
Reference

The paper 'Local and global influences on protein turnover in neurons and glia' can be freely accessed online at https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.34202. Contents, including text, figures and data, are free to reuse under a CC BY 4.0 license.

Media contact

Emily Packer, Senior Press Officer
eLife
e.packer@elifesciences.org
01223 855373

About eLife

eLife aims to help scientists accelerate discovery by operating a platform for research communication that encourages and recognises the most responsible behaviours in science. We publish important research in all areas of the life and biomedical sciences, which is selected and evaluated by working scientists and made freely available online without delay. eLife also invests in innovation through open source tool development to accelerate research communication and discovery. Our work is guided by the communities we serve. eLife is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Max Planck Society, the Wellcome Trust and the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation. Learn more at https://elifesciences.org.

eLife

Related Neurons Articles:

Paying attention to the neurons behind our alertness
The neurons of layer 6 - the deepest layer of the cortex - were examined by researchers from the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University to uncover how they react to sensory stimulation in different behavioral states.
Trying to listen to the signal from neurons
Toyohashi University of Technology has developed a coaxial cable-inspired needle-electrode.
A mechanical way to stimulate neurons
Magnetic nanodiscs can be activated by an external magnetic field, providing a research tool for studying neural responses.
Extraordinary regeneration of neurons in zebrafish
Biologists from the University of Bayreuth have discovered a uniquely rapid form of regeneration in injured neurons and their function in the central nervous system of zebrafish.
Dopamine neurons mull over your options
Researchers at the University of Tsukuba have found that dopamine neurons in the brain can represent the decision-making process when making economic choices.
Neurons thrive even when malnourished
When animal, insect or human embryos grow in a malnourished environment, their developing nervous systems get first pick of any available nutrients so that new neurons can be made.
The first 3D map of the heart's neurons
An interdisciplinary research team establishes a new technological pipeline to build a 3D map of the neurons in the heart, revealing foundational insight into their role in heart attacks and other cardiac conditions.
Mapping the neurons of the rat heart in 3D
A team of researchers has developed a virtual 3D heart, digitally showcasing the heart's unique network of neurons for the first time.
How to put neurons into cages
Football-shaped microscale cages have been created using special laser technologies.
A molecule that directs neurons
A research team coordinated by the University of Trento studied a mass of brain cells, the habenula, linked to disorders like autism, schizophrenia and depression.
More Neurons News and Neurons Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: The Power Of Spaces
How do spaces shape the human experience? In what ways do our rooms, homes, and buildings give us meaning and purpose? This hour, TED speakers explore the power of the spaces we make and inhabit. Guests include architect Michael Murphy, musician David Byrne, artist Es Devlin, and architect Siamak Hariri.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.