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Proteins Implicated in Brain Disease

Scientists have discovered a set of brain proteins responsible for some of the most common and devastating brain diseases.

The proteins underlie epilepsy, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disease, mental retardation and neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s diseases.

“The reason such a remarkable number of diseases are relevant to this set of proteins is that these proteins are at the heart of how brain cells function,” explains Professor Seth Grant, Director of the Genes to Cognition Programme at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.

Rather than taking traditional methods for studying just one protein at a time, the researchers developed a method that finds whole sets of proteins that bind to each other and form microscopic molecular machines. They were hunting for the ‘engine room’ of nerve cells, which is known to be inside the connections between nerve cells called synapses.

Synapses join the billions of nerve cells together in the brain and they are the location where learning and memory and many other behaviours are controlled.

“We developed a new method, which led to this discovery,” says Dr Jyoti Choudhary, leader of the Proteomic Mass Spectrometry team, which collaborated with Professor Grant’s team on the study, “and it should be equally useful in finding the basis of many other diseases in other cells and tissues of the body.”

To find this key set of proteins – called MASCs (a scientific acronym for MAGUK Associated Signaling Complexes and pronounced ‘mask’) – the researchers adapted a method that had previously been used in yeast cells.

The method involved making a ‘molecular hook’ and attaching it to one protein inside brain cells of mice. They then caught the hook and pulled it out and found it brought along another 100 proteins. The set contained dozens of disease causing proteins.

“This points to the new concept that the molecular machines are defective in the diseases and that they present new ways to approach therapy,” says Dr Choudhary.

Not only were there many disease proteins within the molecular machines but also proteins that control the communication between nerve cells and the mechanisms of learning and memory.

“This research is an important convergence of basic and clinical science,” says Professor Grant. “Our findings are exciting because they suggest that the molecular machine itself is at the root of many important brain diseases.

“This was a blue-skies research project seeking the basic mechanisms of learning and memory and it has led us into some of the inner workings of the brain.”

“This is a key step toward new ways to fight mental illness.”

Source: Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute

Proteins Implicated in Brain Disease

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Proteins Implicated in Brain Disease. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 16, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2009/05/21/proteins-implicated-in-brain-disease/6020.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.