New research from the Vickie & Jack Farber Institute for Neuroscience, Jefferson Health has identified a key molecule that stabilizes microtubules and reinforces new neuronal branches. With neurons form circuits in our brain by creating tree-like branches to connect with each other, newly forming branches rely on the stability of microtubules, a railway-like system important for the transport of materials in cells. Today, we explore this crucial matter in its depths to give a better understanding of this groundbreaking discovery that was only brought to the attention of the world.
New groundbreaking findings
In the new study, published August 7 in the Journal of Neuroscience, Dr. Tymanskyj and Dr. Ma used genetic tools to remove MAP7 from developing rodent sensory neurons and found that without MAP7, branches can still grow but they retract more frequently. This means that the branches cannot make a complete and lasting connections without MAP7.
Good candidates for regulating microtubule stability
The researchers also introduced more MAP7 protein to branches that had been cut by a laser and found that it could slow down or even prevent retraction that usually happens in response to injury. This suggested that the manipulation of MAP7 could potentially rescue injured neuronal branches.
Promotes steady assembling
A key finding of the study demonstrated a unique property of MAP7 when it interacts with microtubules. The researchers found that in cells, MAP7 binds to specific regions of microtubules and makes them very stable but avoids the microtubule ends, where individual building blocks are rapidly added or removed. This valuable binding property prevents microtubules, or the cellular railway, from completely disassembling when branches retract.
New ways to reduce damage
According to Dr. Ma, who has already initiated new studies exploring this, the research she has been engaging in has already identified a new molecular mechanism of microtubule regulation in branch formation and has suggested a new target to potentially treat nerve injury.