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Nerve matters: Scientific Study Identifies Ion Channel Components As Critical Regulators Of Neuronal Connections

Tuesday, 30 March, 2021 - 08:00

In a ten-year project, a team from the Karl Landsteiner University of Health Sciences has identified a previously unknown role of calcium channels in the formation of synaptic connections.

(c) Cornelia Ablinger und Gerald Obermair

Verbindungen zwischen Nervenzellen (Synapsen) wie sie sich unter dem Fluoreszenzmikroskop darstellen. Die grün gefärbten Nervenfasern haben keine α2δ Proteine und können deshalb keine funktionierenden Synapsen ausbilden. Trotzdem können diese Zellen Informationen benachbarter Zellen auf sogenannten postsynaptischen Dornfortsätzen („dendritic spines“) empfangen. Kalziumkanäle sind auf dieser Abbildung rot, Vesikel mit Neurotransmitter blau gefärbt. Die Größe der einzelnen dargestellten synaptischen Verbindungen entspricht in etwa einem Tausendstel Millimeter (einem Mikrometer).

Components of calcium channels play a decisive role in synapse formation. This is the surprising conclusion of a study comprising more than a decade of research, owing to the involved experimental challenges. The findings were published in PNAS today. The laboratory within the Mental Health & Neuroscience research program at the Karl Landsteiner University of Health Sciences in Krems, Austria (KL Krems) focuses on neuronal functions of regulatory proteins of so-called voltage-gated calcium channels.  Over the recent years these proteins – named α2δ – have emerged as important regulators of synaptic transmission between nerve cells. The present finding of these proteins critically regulating the formation of excitatory synapses in the central nervous system, however, came as a surprise.

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