Washington: Neuroscientists have identified a key protein that may be activated to protect nerve cells from damage during heart failure or epileptic seizure.They found that the protein, known as SUMO, regulate the transfer of information between nerve cells in the brain.The discovery, made by neuroscientists at the University of Bristol, could lead to novel new therapies for stroke and epilepsy.According to the research team, led by Professor Jeremy Henley and Dr Jack Mellor from Bristol`s Medical School, SUMO is responsible for controlling the chemical processes which reduce or enhance protection mechanisms for nerve cells in the brain.These key SUMO proteins produce subtle responses to the brain`s activity levels to regulate the amount of information transmitted by kainate receptors - responsible for communication between nerve cells and whose activation can lead to epileptic seizures and nerve cell death.Protein function is controlled by altering their structure in processes that can be independent or inter-related including phosphorylation, ubiquitination and SUMOylation.In the present work it is shown that phosphorylation of kainate receptors on its own promotes their activity. However, phosphorylation also facilitates SUMOylation of kainate receptors that reduces their activity. Thus there is a dynamic and delicate interplay between phosphorylation and SUMOylation that regulates kainate receptor function.
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