Scientists at the Mainz University Medical Center have discovered another molecule that plays an important role in regulating myelin formation in the central nervous system. Myelin promotes the conduction of nerve cell impulses by forming a sheath around their projections, the so-called axons, at specific locations – acting like the plastic insulation around a power cord. The research team, led by Dr. Robin White of the Institute of Physiology and Pathophysiology at the University Medical Center of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, recently published their findings in the prestigious journal EMBO reports.
Complex organisms have evolved a technique known as saltatory conduction of impulses to enable nerve cells to transmit information over large distances more efficiently. This is possible because the specialized nerve cell axonal projections involved in conducting impulses are coated at specific intervals with myelin, which acts as an insulating layer. In the central nervous system, myelin develops when oligodendrocytes, which are a type of brain cell, repeatedly wrap their cellular processes around the axons of nerve cells forming a compact stack of cell membranes, a so-called myelin sheath. A myelin sheath not only has a high lipid content but also contains two main proteins, the synthesis of which needs to be carefully regulated.
The current study analyzed the synthesis of myelin basic protein (MBP), a substance which is essential for the formation and stabilization of myelin membranes. In common with all proteins, MBP is generated in a two-stage process originating from basic genetic material in the form of DNA. First, DNA is converted to mRNA, which, in turn, serves as a template for the actual synthesis of MBP. During myelin formation, the synthesis of MBP in oligodendrocytes is suppressed until distinct signals from nerve cells initiate myelination at specific "production sites". To date, the mechanisms involved in the suppression of MBP synthesis over relatively long periods of time have not been understood. This is where the current work of the Mainz scientists comes in, as they were able to identify a molecule that is responsible for the suppression of MBP synthesis.
"This molecule, called sncRNA715, binds to MBP mRNA, thus preventing MBP synthesis," explains Dr. Robin White. "Our research findings show that levels of sncRNA715 and MBP inversely correlate during myelin formation and that it is possible to influence the extent of MBP production in oligodendrocytes by artificially modifying levels of sncRNA715. This indicates that the recently discovered molecule is a significant factor in the regulation of MBP synthesis."
Understanding the molecular basis for myelin formation is essential with regard to various neurological illnesses that involve a loss of the protective myelin layer. For example, it is still unclear why oligodendrocytes lose their ability to repair the damage to myelin in the progress of multiple sclerosis (MS). "Interestingly, in collaboration with our Dutch colleagues, we have been able to identify a correlation between levels of sncRNA715 and MBP in the brain tissue of MS patients," Robin White continues. "In contrast with unaffected areas of the brain in which the myelin structure appears normal, there are higher levels of sncRNA715 in affected areas in which myelin formation is impaired. Our findings may help to provide a molecular explanation for myelination failures in illnesses such as multiple sclerosis."
Johannes Gutenberg Universitaet Mainz: http://www.uni-mainz.de
This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.
Results of largest ever genetics study of a single population could also help refine dates for major events during human evolution Humans are evolving more rapidly than previously thought, according to the largest ever genetics study of a single population.
Latest genetic tests reveal another break in the male line, potentially undermining the legitimacy of the entire House of Plantagenet When scientists revealed last year that an adulterous affair had apparently broken the male line in Richard III’s family tree, they vowed to investigate further.
By 2016, Icelandic genetics company deCODE will have data on half the country's population. Releasing the data will be controversial, but could save lives
A clinical trial has shown that the drug aducanumab slows cognitive decline in people with Alzheimer's and reduces the amount of amyloid plaque in their brain
A leading researcher issues a call for pills that deliver a full course of treatment in one swallow.One of the world’s preëminent biomedical researchers is calling for a concerted effort by scientists to develop pills that would stay in the stomach or gut for weeks or months once swallowed, delivering one or more drugs continuously or over set intervals.
Two genes responsible for building up drug-resistance can easily be shared between a family of bacteria
When malaria parasites infect blood, they manufacture odor molecules that smell sweet to mosquitoes, scientists report. So how do these odors get from the bloodstream to the insects?
Researchers are developing new method of wireless deep brain stimulation.
Zoos belonging to World Association of Zoos and Aquariums filmed allowing shocking mistreatment of elephants, dolphins, lions, bears, penguins and whales
Owners of Highland Wildlife Park hope Victoria, 18, will get chummy with male Arktos during her stay in the Cairngorms