Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Scientific Community
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

Nature Mixes, Matches Genes to Keep Nerve Cells Straight

Published: Thursday, June 12, 2008
Last Updated: Thursday, June 12, 2008
Bookmark and Share
BCM researchers report that nature has to mix and match thousands of genes to generate the myriad types of neurons needed to assemble the brain and nervous system.

With fewer than 30,000 human genes with which to work, Nature has to mix and match to generate the myriad types of neurons or nerve cells needed to assemble the brain and nervous system. Keeping this involved process on the straight and narrow requires a clever balance of promotion and inhibition, said researchers from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston in a report that appears in the current edition of the journal Developmental Cell.

"Our finding should have implications for the entire stem cell field," said Dr. Soo-Kyung Lee, assistant professor of molecular and cellular biology at BCM. "Scientists are seeking to make particular cell types using combinations of embryonic genes. They need to keep in mind that you do not just push them forward down one pathway. You must also suppress related pathways."

"During embryonic development, one needs to generate a lot of different types of neurons," said Lee, also a faculty member in the BCM Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. "How are they being generated at the right time and place? To assemble the brain, you need all these different types of neurons. With a limited number of genes, how do you generate such a complex system?"

"We want to understand the molecular mechanisms that allow one gene to influence the formation of many neurons," she said.

They found that both promotion of one pathway and inhibition of another are required to keep the cells on the right road to cell fate determination.

"One factor does not determine cell fate," she said. It's a combination of factors or genes that together affect neuron formation.

She and her colleagues concentrated their work on the development of motor neurons in mice. Two types of nerve cells – spinal motor neurons and V2-interneurons – are required for motor coordination. As they become those cells, they share important regulatory factors, said Lee.

"They share a cell lineage pathway," she said. "We asked how do we generate two different lineages from one pathway?"

A cocktail of the transcription factors Isl1 and Lhx3 can cause embryonic cells to become motor neurons, she said.

"If we put only Lhx3 into the embryonic neural stem cells, they become V2-interneurons," she said. However, deleting the genes can cause the pathways to converge, resulting in hybrid cells that result in the death of the embryos.

This does not happen in Nature, she said, and they found that a gene called Hb9, expressed only in motor neurons, blocks the ability of Lhx3 to cause embryonic neural stem cells to become the V2-interneurons.

"Once you turn on the complex of Isl1 and Lhx3, then you also turn on a repressor that blocks the cells from going down the alternative pathway to becoming V2-interneurons," she said. The motor neuron fate of those cells is sealed. They found a similar repressor function in the V2-interneuron pathway.

"We think this is a delicately developed system," said Lee. "We don't think this mechanism is restricted to motor neurons."

Others who took part in this work include Seunghee Lee, Bora Lee, Kaumudi Joshi and Jae W. Lee, all of BCM and Samuel L. Pfaff of the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California.

The research was funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, PEW, March of Dimes Foundations and the Mental Retardation/Developmental Disabilities Research Center.

Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,800+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 4,000+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Baylor, DNAnexus Collaborate
Partnership sets out to develop HgV, a new iteration of HGSC's Mercury, a BCM-developed data processing and variant calling pipeline for analyzing and annotating next-generation sequencing data in research and clinical contexts.
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Baylor, TGen Collaborate on Personalized Cancer Treatment Options
The companies will collaborate on precision medicine for cancer patients by offering liquid biopsies, performing gene sequencing, conducting clinical trials, and creating personalized vaccines.
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
Collaboration Unravels Novel Mechanism for Neurological Disorder
The novel gene (CLP1) associated with a neurological disorder affecting both the peripheral and central nervous systems.
Saturday, April 26, 2014
$3M NIH Grant Enables Baylor International HIV/AIDS Program
Researchers to study genetic differences of disease in sub-Saharan African children.
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Baylor College of Medicine, Berry Genomics Co. Seek to Improve on Prenatal Genetic Tests
Teams aim to improve prenatal genetic testing by combining BCM’s expertise in using microarrays for DNA analysis and Berry’s non-invasive technology evaluating fetal DNA in maternal plasma.
Monday, January 07, 2013
Protein 'Tubules' Free Avian Flu Virus from Immune Recognition
Two domains or portions of the protein NS1 combine to form tiny tubules where double-stranded RNA is hidden from the immune system, researchers say.
Friday, November 07, 2008
Lack of Fragile X, Related Gene Disrupts Sleep
Deficiency of the FMR1 gene and a similar gene called FXR2 could account for sleep problems associated with inherited mental impairment.
Friday, June 27, 2008
Findings Indicate How Gene Transcription is Controlled in Embryonic Stem Cells
In a report that appears in the journal Nature Cell Biology, BCM researchers explain that association determines fate in embryonic stem cells.
Monday, May 05, 2008
Notch Controls Bone Formation and Strength
Notch, a protein that governs cell differentiation process in embryos, plays a critical role in bone formation and strength later in life.
Monday, February 25, 2008
Epilepsy Genes may Cancel Each Other
Inheriting two genetic mutations that can individually cause epilepsy might actually be "seizure-protective," according to Baylor College of Medicine researchers.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
BCM Human Microbiome Projects to Sequence 150 Bacteria, Sample Human Metagenome
A $2.3 million NHGRI grant will enable researchers to determine the genetic code of bacteria that colonize healthy humans and study the structure of microbial communities from five regions of the human body.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Scientific News
Revolutionary Technologies Developed to Improve Outcomes for Lung Cancer Patients
Breath test to detect lung cancer brings oxygen directly to the wound.
New Tech Vastly Improves CRISPR/Cas9 Accuracy
A new CRISPR/Cas9 technology developed by scientists at UMass Medical School is precise enough to surgically edit DNA at nearly any genomic location, while avoiding potentially harmful off-target changes typically seen in standard CRISPR gene editing techniques.
New Class of RNA Tumor Suppressors Identified
Two short, “housekeeping” RNA molecules block cancer growth by binding to an important cancer-associated protein called KRAS. More than a quarter of all human cancers are missing these RNAs.
Biologists Induce Flatworms to Grow Heads and Brains of Other Species
Findings shed light on role of a new kind of epigenetic signaling in evolution, could yield clues for understanding birth defects and regeneration.
Turning up the Tap on Microbes Leads to Better Protein Patenting
Mining millions of proteins could become faster and easier with a new technique that may also transform the enzyme-catalyst industry, according to University of California, Davis, researchers.
Mathematical Model Forecasts the Path of Breast Cancer
Chances of survival depend on which organs breast cancer tumors colonize first.
Exploring the Causes of Cancer
Queen's research to understand the regulation of a cell surface protein involved in cancer.
Ancient Viral Molecules Essential for Human Development
Genetic material from ancient viral infections is critical to human development, according to researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.
Tardigrade's Are DNA Master Thieves
Tardigrades, nearly microscopic animals that can survive the harshest of environments, including outer space, hold the record for the animal that has the most foreign DNA.
The Secret Behind the Power of Bacterial Sex
Migration between different communities of bacteria is the key to the type of gene transfer that can lead to the spread of traits such as antibiotic resistance, according to researchers at Oxford University.
Skyscraper Banner

SELECTBIO Market Reports
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,800+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,000+ scientific videos