Nav: Home

Enzyme helps build motor that drives neuron death

August 06, 2018

A biochemistry instructor curious about an enzyme discovered in the damaged neurons of people with multiple sclerosis made a leap toward a potential cure for countless neurodegenerative ills.

Vanderbilt University's Amrita Pathak, working with Bruce D. Carter, biochemistry professor and associate director of the Vanderbilt Brain Institute, found that the enzyme histone deacetylase 1 (HDAC1), normally in the nucleus of cells, is also present in the axons of some neurons. When a degenerative signal is activated, HDAC1 modifies a component of a molecular motor, which then drives a signaling agent down the axon to the neuron's cell body, killing it.

The motor is integral to that process, Carter said, because of the extreme length of axons in some neurons.

"Some of our neurons, if their cell bodies were the size of basketballs, their axons would reach about 6 miles," he said. "This is a new finding in terms of how the motor can be assembled and allow transport back to the cell body. There has been evidence of a retrograde degenerative signal, and now we've identified key components and a mechanism controlling their transport."

Their paper, "Retrograde degenerative signaling mediated by the p75 neurotrophin receptor requires p150glued deacetylation by axonal HDAC1," appears online today in the journal Developmental Cell.

The biochemistry team worked with Deyu Li, professor of mechanical engineering, to build microfluidic devices that separate the axon from the cell body, allowing them to determine which part of the degenerative signaling process was happening where.

The Carter laboratory has long studied that signaling agent, the neurotrophin receptor p75(NTR), and the role it plays in development and diseases of the brain. It's implicated in Alzheimer's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, traumatic brain injury, ischemia, hormone deficiency and other diseases or injuries to the nervous system.

Their research builds on the work of Vanderbilt University biochemist Stanley Cohen, who in 1986 shared the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for the discovery of nerve growth factor, the founding member of the neurotrophin family, and its effect on cells, Carter said.

Pathak, who used sympathetic neurons for her research, intends to find whether similar cellular processes are happening in motor neurons known to be affected in ALS. "If we can block that, we can block the neuron death that occurs," she said.
-end-


Vanderbilt University

Related Neurons Articles:

How do we get so many different types of neurons in our brain?
SMU (Southern Methodist University) researchers have discovered another layer of complexity in gene expression, which could help explain how we're able to have so many billions of neurons in our brain.
These neurons affect how much you do, or don't, want to eat
University of Arizona researchers have identified a network of neurons that coordinate with other brain regions to influence eating behaviors.
Mood neurons mature during adolescence
Researchers have discovered a mysterious group of neurons in the amygdala -- a key center for emotional processing in the brain -- that stay in an immature, prenatal developmental state throughout childhood.
Astrocytes protect neurons from toxic buildup
Neurons off-load toxic by-products to astrocytes, which process and recycle them.
Connecting neurons in the brain
Leuven researchers uncover new mechanisms of brain development that determine when, where and how strongly distinct brain cells interconnect.
More Neurons News and Neurons Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Erasing The Stigma
Many of us either cope with mental illness or know someone who does. But we still have a hard time talking about it. This hour, TED speakers explore ways to push past — and even erase — the stigma. Guests include musician and comedian Jordan Raskopoulos, neuroscientist and psychiatrist Thomas Insel, psychiatrist Dixon Chibanda, anxiety and depression researcher Olivia Remes, and entrepreneur Sangu Delle.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#537 Science Journalism, Hold the Hype
Everyone's seen a piece of science getting over-exaggerated in the media. Most people would be quick to blame journalists and big media for getting in wrong. In many cases, you'd be right. But there's other sources of hype in science journalism. and one of them can be found in the humble, and little-known press release. We're talking with Chris Chambers about doing science about science journalism, and where the hype creeps in. Related links: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study Claims of causality in health news: a randomised trial This...