Research Identifies Gene Key to Neuron Survival
During development of the brain, hundreds of thousands of neurons die if they do not establish connections - synapses - with their target cells. Regulation of neuron survival and death is fundamental to a fuctional, organized brain
Researchers at the Institute of Neurosciences at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (INc-UAB) have identified the Nurr1 gene as fundamental to neuron survival associated with synapse activity.
The discovery, published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, gives scientists a new target to help understand neural connections, which when faulty, are known to cause early cognitive deficits and Alzheimer's neurodegeneration characteristics.
The effect of synapse activity on the survival of neurons is not limited to the developing brain; it is also fundamental in the adult brain. Despite the importance of this process, there is no exact knowledge of the molecular mechanisms implied in neuron survival.
In the study directed by José Rodríguez Álvarez at the UAB Institute of Neurosciences, scientists made a massive analysis of gene activity and identified the key role played by the Nurr1 gene in the survival of neurons.
The researchers observed that when the activity of the Nurr1 gene is silenced, a neuron dies. This identification provides a better understanding of the relationship between early synaptic deficits and the posterior neurodegeneration observed in Alzheimer's disease.
Original article: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-04/uadb-iag041612.php