Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Stem Cells, Cellular Therapy & Biobanking
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

Join For Free

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 3,500+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 5,100+ 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

Role of Cancer Stem Cells in Chemo-Resistance
'Wound response' of cancer stem cells may explain chemo-resistance in bladder cancer.
Friday, December 05, 2014
Experimental Drug Targets Chemo-Resistant Breast Cancer Stem Cells
The cells that remain after treatment that could potentially refuel tumor growth, researchers say.
Monday, December 14, 2009
Ronin Provides Alternate Pathway to Pristine Embryonic Stem Cells
The protein Ronin maintains embryonic stem cells in their undifferentiated state and plays roles in genesis of embryos and their development, researchers say.
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
Scientific News
Genome Engineering Paves Way For Sickle Cell Cure
Researchers from UC Berkeley have used CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing to fix the mutated gene responsible for sickle cell disease.
Preventing Alzheimer's in Mice
Researchers have prevented the Alzheimer’s development in mice by using a virus delivery system to transport a specific gene into the brain.
Link Between Heart and Blood Cells in Early Development Found
Researchers have identifed a key factor in determining the fate of early undifferentiated cells during development.
Scientists Speed Up Muscle Repair
Researchers discovered genetically modified mice were able to support far more regenerative stem cells, for muscle repair, than previously thought.
3D-Printing in Science: Conference Co-Staged with LABVOLUTION
LABVOLUTION 2017 will have an added highlight of a simultaneous conference, "3D-Printing in Science".
Nanosensors Could Determine Tumours’ Ability to Remodel Tissue
Researchers design nanosensors that can profile tumours, focusing on protease levels.
Insight into Eye Diseases
Scientists recreate zebrafish cell regeneration from retinal stem cells in mice.
1960s Antibiotics Show Promise for TB Therapy
Research suggests antibiotics introduced in 1963 to treat bacterial infections show promise for tuberculosis therapy.
Analysing 10,000 Cells Simultaneously
New techniquethat traps 10,000 cells on a single chip has potential for cancer screening for individuals.
Studies Explore the Science of Cardiovascular Diseases
Two studies highlight how basic science research insights are key to future treatment breakthroughs.
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
3,500+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
5,100+ scientific videos