For proper functioning of the brain in humans and animals, the nerve cells must communicate with the neurons by releasing chemicals called neurotransmitters.
In a new study, biologists from Utah showed how a single protein plays an importnat role in preparing the nerve cells to send these chemical signals.
The experimented animals were paralyzed- unable to move, eat or eliminate waste-when the Scientists crippled the protein UNC-13.
" All our thoughts and memories are coded by chemical connections in the brain", said Eric Jorgensen, Professor of Biology, Univerity of Utah . According to a new study Eric and his colleagues demonstrated that UNC-13 is necessary for helping another protein named syntaxin to send signals to the adjacent neurons.In a series of experiments, Jorgensen showed that without UNC-13, the syntaxin protein remins closed and cannot help the nerve cells to release neurotransmitters.Thus, the UNC-13 protein unfolds or opens the syntaxin protein so it can aid the release of neurotransmitter from one nerve cell to another.
When a human or other animal has any sensation- from feeling pain to hearing a sound or remembering something millions of neurons are sending signals in the form of neurotransmitters,Jorgensen said.The strength of a signal depends on the number of neurotransmitter filled membrane balloons released by each neuron.So the strength of memory depends on how well the UNC-13 protein helps to gather up the neurotransmitter filled balloons and release them from one cell to another, he stated.
Jorgensen said the research was aimed at understanding how the brain works, how information is stored and transmitted.