Video captures protein traffic inside brain cell

August 23rd, 2012 - 4:29 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Aug 23 (IANS) Using a new imaging technique, scientists have created spectacular video footage on the movement of proteins inside a neuron (brain cell).

“Your brain is being disassembled and reassembled every day,” said study co-author Don Arnold, associate professor of molecular and computational biology at the University of Southern California Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

“One week from today, your brain will be made up of completely different proteins than it is today. This video shows the process. We’ve known that it was happening, but now we can watch it happen,” said Arnold, according to the journal Cell Reports.

The new technique was used to cast new light on how proteins were directed to one of the two types of compartments inside the neuron: the axon or its branches the dendrites, according to a Sourthern California statement.

The axon is the region of the cell responsible for transmitting electrical signals to other cells, while the dendrites receive signals from other cells.

“It’s been known for many decades that proteins are specifically targeted to one compartment or the other. However, we couldn’t understand how the targeting occurs until we could actually watch the proteins traveling to one compartment or to the other,” said Sarmad Al-Bassam, doctoral student from Southern California who led the study.

Since the mid-1990s, scientists have been able to illuminate the proteins inside of cells, including neurons, by attaching a protein isolated from jellyfish-known as GFP (green fluorescent protein) - that fluoresces bright green when exposed to blue light.

Martin Chalfie of the Columbia University, Roger Tsien of the University of California-San Diego, and Osamu Shimomura of the Boston University were awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 2008 for the discovery and development of GFP.

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