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

Researchers Find Gene Critical for Development of Brain Motor Centre

Published: Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Last Updated: Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Bookmark and Share
The team describes the Snf2h gene, which is found in our brain's neural stem cells and functions as a master regulator.

In a report published in Nature Communications, an Ottawa-led team of researchers describe the role of a specific gene, called Snf2h, in the development of the cerebellum. Snf2h is required for the proper development of a healthy cerebellum, a master control centre in the brain for balance, fine motor control and complex physical movements.

Athletes and artists perform their extraordinary feats relying on the cerebellum. As well, the cerebellum is critical for the everyday tasks and activities that we perform, such as walking, eating and driving a car. By removing Snf2h, researchers found that the cerebellum was smaller than normal, and balance and refined movements were compromised.

Led by Dr. David Picketts, a senior scientist at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and professor in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Ottawa, the team describes the Snf2h gene, which is found in our brain's neural stem cells and functions as a master regulator. When they removed this gene early on in a mouse's development, its cerebellum only grew to one-third the normal size. It also had difficulty walking, balancing and coordinating its movements, something called cerebellar ataxia that is a component of many neurodegenerative diseases.

"As these cerebellar stem cells divide, on their journey toward becoming specialized neurons, this master gene is responsible for deciding which genes are turned on and which genes are packed tightly away," said Dr. Picketts. "Without Snf2h there to keep things organized, genes that should be packed away are left turned on, while other genes are not properly activated. This disorganization within the cell’s nucleus results in a neuron that doesn't perform very well—like a car running on five cylinders instead of six."

The cerebellum contains roughly half the neurons found in the brain. It also develops in response to external stimuli. So, as we practice tasks, certain genes or groups of genes are turned on and off, which strengthens these circuits and helps to stabilize or perfect the task being undertaken. The researchers found that the Snf2h gene orchestrates this complex and ongoing process. These master genes, which adapt to external cues to adjust the genes they turn on and off, are known as epigenetic regulators.

"These epigenetic regulators are known to affect memory, behaviour and learning," said Dr. Picketts. "Without Snf2h, not enough cerebellar neurons are produced, and the ones that are produced do not respond and adapt as well to external signals. They also show a progressively disorganized gene expression profile that results in cerebellar ataxia and the premature death of the animal."

There are no studies showing a direct link between Snf2h mutations and diseases with cerebellar ataxia, but Dr. Picketts added that it "is certainly possible and an interesting avenue to explore."

In 2012, Developmental Cell published a paper by Dr. Picketts' team showing that mice lacking the sister gene Snf2l were completely normal, but had larger brains, more cells in all areas of the brain and more actively dividing brain stem cells. The balance between Snf2l and Snf2h gene activity is necessary for controlling brain size and for establishing the proper gene expression profiles that underlie the function of neurons in different regions, including the cerebellum.

This research was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

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

Using Mathematical Modelling in the Fight Against Cancer
Different treatments and genetic modifications might allow cancer-killing, oncolytic viruses to overcome the natural defences that cancer cells use.
Thursday, June 20, 2013
Scientific News
High Throughput Mass Spectrometry-Based Screening Assay Trends
Dr John Comley provides an insight into HT MS-based screening with a focus on future user requirements and preferences.
The MaxSignal Colistin ELISA Test Kit from Bioo Scientific
Kit can help prevent the antibiotic apocalypse by keeping last resort drugs out of the food supply.
"Good" Mozzie Virus Might Hold Key to Fighting Human Disease
Australian scientists have discovered a new virus carried by one of the country’s most common pest mosquitoes.
Non-Disease Proteins Kill Brain Cells
Scientists at the forefront of cutting-edge research into neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s have shown that the mere presence of protein aggregates may be as important as their form and identity in inducing cell death in brain tissue.
Closing the Loop on an HIV Escape Mechanism
Research team finds that protein motions regulate virus infectivity.
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.
Potential Treatment for Life-Threatening Viral Infections Revealed
The findings point to new therapies for Dengue, West Nile and Ebola.
World’s First Therapeutic Venom Database
Open-source library describes nearly 43,000 effects on the human body.
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.
Fat Cells Originating from Bone Marrow Found in Humans
Cells could contribute to diabetes, heart disease.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
Skyscraper Banner

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
2,800+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,000+ scientific videos