Washington: A new study has found an essential part of a complex of proteins that control the sculpting of brain circuitry, a process that encodes memory.
Researchers working with adult mice have discovered that learning and memory were profoundly affected when they altered the amounts of the protein, called kibra, in specific parts of the mammals’ brains.
The protein was linked in previous studies in humans to memory and protection against late-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
“There are populations of humans who are slightly smarter and have better memory recall than others, and these traits have been mapped to the gene that codes for the kibra protein” said Richard L. Huganir, Ph.D., professor and director of the Solomon H. Snyder Department of Neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
“Our studies in mice show that this same gene is involved in the operation of synapses, through which neurons communicate, and in brain plasticity, suggesting that’s what its role might be in humans too,” he stated.
In their lab, Huganir and neuroscience graduate student Lauren Makuch isolated kibra from mouse brain cells and confirmed by standard biochemical tests that it interacted with a neurotransmitter receptor in the brain known as the AMPA receptor.
Results showed that AMPA receptors moved faster in the cells with less kibra than in control cells with normal amounts of the protein demonstrating that kibra regulates how receptors are delivered to the surface of brain cells.
“Our work in the mammalian brain shows that kibra, required for normal brain function and associated with learning and memory, is important for regulating the trafficking of AMPA receptors,” Huganir said.
“In addition, as kibra has been associated with protection against early onset Alzheimer’s disease, these studies may help define novel therapeutic targets for the treatment of age-related memory disorders,” he added.
The finding was reported in the Sept. 22 issue of Neuron.