A group of Korean researchers has revealed the mechanism of cofilin, a protein necessary for the development and synapse formation of neurons, for the first time in the world.
|Professor Kim Kyung-tae and Min Kyung-tae|
When a problem occurs in the development of the brain nerve cell, various brain diseases, including a mental disorder, can appear.
The research team led by Professor Min Kyung-tae of Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) and Professor Kim Kyung-tae of Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH), focused on how brain nerve cells are made to prevent such disorders.
According to the team, there are about 10 billion neurons in the cerebral cortex in the human brain. Neurons are connected to each other by a structure called a synapse, which processes and stores the information delivered. The synapse can adjust its number or shape in regards to the stimulus received. During the process, the growth rate and direction of the axons extending like a branch at the end of each nerve cell are significant.
Previous researches proved that cofilin interacts with microfibers called actin, which regulates the growth rate and direction of neuronal axons. However, until now researchers have failed to discover the manufacturing process of cofilin.
The team focused on the fact that the translation of cofilin was different from the other conventional translation. Translation is the process of biochemistry that decodes genetic information to produce proteins.
It found that cofilin activated the Internal Ribosome Entry Site (IRES) to produce proteins rapidly. IRES is the point where the mRNA that carries genetic information can directly link with the ribosome.
“Inaccurate synaptic connections not only interferes with signal transduction between brain cells but also creates memory and learning disabilities,” Professor Kim said. “This study will provide a fundamental understanding of brain development and will contribute greatly to the prevention and treatment of brain development disorders.”
Professor Min also showed high expectation regarding the study.
“We can summarize that the cofilin protein is rapidly synthesized via IRES to help control the growth rate and direction of actions to form the correct synapse,” Min said. “The study has revealed the principle of production of key proteins that prevent mental disorders and will play a major role in the treatment of brain diseases that cause intellectual disability.”
The results of the study were published in the EMBO Journal, one of the most influential microbiology publications.
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