New Insight into Nerve Cell Communication

An integral part of our bodily functions is the nervous system. Nerve cells are part of the communication process in our body and takes place through vesicles, which have signaling molecules also known as neurotransmitters. The production of new vesicles is important for a good communication process in the nervous system. If any lapses do occur, then it could lead to nerve pain such as phantom pains, which might even lead to amputation.

A deficiency in BAR, a protein domain is one reason behind nerve pain. BAR fuses itself to small membrane vesicles of varied sizes. Stating that the new discovery will be used to counter nerve pain, Dimitrios Stamou, Associate Professor at the Bio-Nanotechnology Laboratory, Nano-Science Center and the Department of Neuroscience and Pharmacology said, “We have used nanotechnology techniques, which give us the unique opportunity to study the binding of proteins to individual vesicles. Earlier studies have been performed in solutions where you measure a large number of vesicles and proteins at a time. This gives an average value of binding and ‘masks out’ a large amount of important information that we can retrieve by measurements on single vesicles.”

Increasingly, more studies, including this one, indicate that the curvature of the membrane has a lot to do with the fusing of proteins to cell membranes. The fusing of proteins is greater if the curvature of the membrane increases. This insight now sheds more light on the general understanding of how communication takes place between nerve cells and is even more helpful towards developing treatments for diseases.
“To our great surprise we find that BAR binds to the membrane vesicles via small cracks in the vesicle membrane. We had expected that BAR bound to the small round membrane vesicles both because of its banana shaped structure, which fits with the shape of the vesicle, and by means of an attraction between “the banana’s” positive surface and vesicle’s negative surface. But instead, it is the hydrophobic part of BAR that is involved in binding,” explained Mr. Stamou.

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