OCT 31, 2019 05:19 PM PDT

Familial Alzheimer's Gene Found to Regulate Nerve Development

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Age has the most significant influence on the development of neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and some types of cancer. However, epidemiological research has suggested that the incidence of Alzheimer’s and cancer are inversely correlated; the diseases don’t usually occur in a patient at the same time. The reason why the diseases have a contrary relationship is unclear, however.

Image credit: Max Pixel

An international team of scientists has now learned more about a process that plays a critical role in the growth of one part of neurons, the axon. Axon growth is crucial during neurodevelopment. These findings, reported in eLife, have revealed that a molecule that is in the family of presenilin proteins is a part of this process. Mutations in the gene that encodes for this presenilin protein are the primary cause of heritable forms of Alzheimer’s. Case reports have identified unusual plaque buildup in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients that carry mutations in this presenilin gene.

In this new study, the researchers showed that presenilin is required for controlling the growth of neurons as the brain develops. They demonstrated that a receptor that plays a role in some kinds of cancer, the EphA3 receptor, is how the presenilin protein exerts this control.

This image shows the developing brain visualized with fluorescence laser scanning microscopy. It illustrates the neurons (blue) and growing axons (red and green). / Credit: Author: INc-UAB

Eph receptors have also been linked to several physiological processes including the development of neurons, as well as axon guidance. They have also been linked to the development of lung, breast, prostate and other cancers when aberrantly expressed. The mechanism revealed in this new study connects cancer and neurodegeneration.

"The discovery of this new signaling route is very relevant in the study of neurological disorders in which the morphology of the neuron axon is altered. Indeed, the implications of the study go beyond the brain given that the mechanism involves the EphA receptors, which play a key role in cancer," explained the first author of the study Dr. Míriam Javier.

This study has opened up new strategies in drug design. "This research allows us to be optimistic about the development of common therapeutic strategies to fight neurological disorders and cancer," added the senior study author Dr. Carles Saura of the Institute of Neuroscience at Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona.

Learn more about how presenilin is associated with Alzheimer’s disease from the video.


Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! via Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, eLife

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
DEC 10, 2019
Cell & Molecular Biology
DEC 10, 2019
A New Theory About the Structure of DNA
Scientists have new ideas about how the helixes of the DNA molecule are linked together....
DEC 10, 2019
Genetics & Genomics
DEC 10, 2019
Antibiotic-Resistance Genes Can Move From Humans to Animals
Researchers at Clemson University have been investigating how antibiotic resistance can move from humans into animals....
DEC 10, 2019
Cell & Molecular Biology
DEC 10, 2019
Different Types of Cells Found in Male and Female Mouse Brains
A team of scientists has discovered rare cells in the brains of mice; one set is only found in males and another set is found only in females....
DEC 10, 2019
Drug Discovery & Development
DEC 10, 2019
Therapeutic Targets Inflammation Associated with Genetic Heart Disease
Often times when young athletes collapse during the game it is due to sudden cardiac death as a result of the inherited arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy (ACM)...
DEC 10, 2019
Neuroscience
DEC 10, 2019
Hiccups Key For Infant Brain Development
Although we know how we hiccup, why has remained a mystery for some time, with researchers suggesting it to be an evolutionary hangover from when our ances...
DEC 10, 2019
Genetics & Genomics
DEC 10, 2019
Neurotoxin Cadmium and Gene Combo Accelerates Cognitive Decline
Findings from a new animal study suggest that exposure to cadmium, a neurotoxin, leads to accelerated cognitive impairment. Males with a genetic risk facto...
Loading Comments...