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A Protein Promotes Synapse Development after Birth21.04.2005 - (idw) Max-Delbrück-Centrum für Molekulare Medizin (MDC) Berlin-Buch
While humans are born with a complete set of nerve cells, the development of the connections between neurons via the building of synapses, occurs primarily after birth. This process is modulated by sensory experience. Despite recent advances in our understanding of how synapses work, the molecular mechanism whereby synapses develop remains largely unknown.
Neurobiologist Prof. Fritz Rathjen from the Max-Delbrück-Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch (Germany) and colleagues have been interested in identifying cell surface proteins regulated by neuronal activity and studying their expression and function during periods of active synapse development. Such proteins are thought to be candidates in the establishment and regulation of synapses and synaptic plasticity. In 1997, the Prof Rathjens team discovered CALEB, a transmembrane protein belonging to the epidermal growth factor (EGF) family. EGF-proteins regulate growth and differentiation of cells.
Now Dr. René Jüttner (MDC) and Prof. Rathjen have characterized the role of the protein CALEB in synapse development using chick retinal cell cultures and CALEB-deficient mice. In control mice they discovered that shortly after birth the production of CALEB is at its highest and then gradually diminishes. They were able to show that CALEB promotes the development of the part of the synapse that releases neurotransmitters to transmit signals from one neuron to the next. The work is published in the latest issue of Neuron* (Vol. 46, pp 233-245, April 21, 2005). Now, the researchers want to find out if CALEB also influences learning in adult mice.
*Impaired synapse function during postnatal development in the absence of CALEB, an EGF-like protein processed by neuronal activity
René Jüttner1), Margret I. Moré1), Debashish Das1), Aleksei Babich1), Jochen Meier2) , Mechthild Henning1), Bettina Erdmann1), Eva-Christiana Müller1), Albrecht Otto1), Rosemarie Grantyn2), and Fritz G. Rathjen1, 3)
1) Max-Delbrück-Centrum, Robert-Rössle-Str. 10, 13092 Berlin, Germany
2) Humboldt-University Medical School (Charité), Berlin, Germany
3) for correspondence: Rathjen@mdc-berlin.de
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