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

Psychiatric Disorders Linked to a Protein Involved in the Formation of Long-Term Memories

Published: Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Last Updated: Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Bookmark and Share
Researchers have discovered a pathway by which the brain controls a molecule critical to forming long-term memories and connected with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

The discovery was made by a team of scientists led by Alexei Morozov, an assistant professor at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute.

The mechanism – a protein called Rap1 – controls L-type calcium channels, which participate in the formation of long-term memories. Previous studies have also linked alterations in these ion channels to certain psychiatric disorders. The discovery of the channels’ regulation by Rap1 could help scientists understand the physiological genesis of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

“People with genetic mutations affecting L-type calcium channels have higher rates of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia,” said Morozov. “This suggests that there might be a relationship between the activation of L-type calcium channels and these psychiatric disorders. Understanding how these ion channels are controlled is the first step to determining how their functioning or malfunctioning affects mental health.”

A single neuron in the brain can have thousands of synapses, each of which can grow, strengthen, weaken, and change structurally in response to learning new information. Electric signals traveling from neuron to neuron jump across these synapses through chemical neurotransmitters. The release of these chemicals is caused by the flow of electrically charged atoms through a particular subset of ion channels known as voltage-gated calcium channels.

Previous studies have shown that blocking these ion channels inhibits the formation of long-term memories. Although it was known that L-type calcium channels are activated in response to learning, how they are controlled was a mystery.

In the experiment, Morozov and colleagues knocked out the gene responsible for coding the enzyme Rap1, which he suspected played a role in activating L-type calcium channels. The researchers then used live imaging techniques to monitor the release of neurotransmitters and electron microscopy to visualize L-type channels at synapses. They discovered that, without Rap1, the L-type calcium channels were more active and more abundant at synapses all the time, increasing the release of neurotransmitters. The results showed that Rap1 is responsible for suppressing L-type calcium channels, allowing them to activate only at the proper moments, possibly during long-term memory formation.

“Our next step is to determine whether this new signaling pathway is altered in cases of mental disease,” said Morozov. “If so, it could help us gain a better understanding of the molecular underpinnings of channel-related psychiatric disorders, such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Such knowledge would go a long way toward developing new therapeutic methods.”

The discovery appeared in The Journal of Neuroscience in the study “Rap1 Signaling Prevents L-Type Calcium Channel-Dependent Neurotransmitter Release,” by Jaichandar Subramanian, now a research fellow at the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Louis Dye, a staff scientist at the Microscopy and Imaging Core of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development; and Morozov, who is also an assistant professor in Virginia Tech’s School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences.

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 2,600+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 3,800+ 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

Cancer Markers May be Present Early During Human Development
Researchers at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute have uncovered a link between the genomes of cells originating in the neural crest and development of tumors — a discovery that could lead to new ways to diagnose and treat cancer.
Friday, August 07, 2015
Scanning Innovation can Improve Personalized Medicine
New combinations of medical imaging technologies hold promise for improved early disease screening, cancer staging, therapeutic assessment, and other aspects of personalized medicine.
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Scientific News
Enzyme Malfunction May be Why Binge Drinking Can Lead to Alcoholism
A new study in mice shows that restoring the synthesis of a key brain chemical tied to inhibiting addictive behavior may help prevent alcohol cravings following binge drinking.
Cell's Waste Disposal System Regulates Body Clock Proteins
New way to identify interacting proteins could identify potential drug targets.
Compound Doubles Up On Cancer Detection
Researchers have found that tagging a pair of markers found almost exclusively on a common brain cancer yields a cancer signal that is both more obvious and more specific to cancer.
Promising Drug Candidate to Treat Chronic Itch
In a new study, scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) describe a class of compounds with the potential to stop chronic itch without the adverse side effects normally associated with medicating the condition.
Are Changes to Current Colorectal Cancer Screening Guidelines Required?
Editorial suggests more research is needed to pinpoint age to end aggressive screening.
Assessing Cancer Patient Survival and Drug Sensitivity
RNA editing events another way to investigate biomarkers and therapy targets.
New Molecular Marker for Killer Cells
Cell marker enables prognosis about the course of infections.
Potential Target for Treatment of Autism
Grant of $2.4 million will support further research.
Sniffing Out Cancer
Scientists have been exploring new ways to “smell” signs of cancer by analyzing what’s in patients’ breath.
Inroads Against Leukaemia
Potential for halting disease in molecule isolated from sea sponges.

Skyscraper Banner
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
2,600+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
3,800+ scientific videos