Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Branching Out
19 October 2015

Branching Out

Actin is a protein that has many functions and is involved in many cellular processes. It forms filaments, which bundle together, shaping the cell. Through a process called nucleation, new actin filaments are formed and existing ones grow in length; but this process is firmly controlled to ensure that the correct cell shape is achieved. In early stages of neuron generation, the shape of the dendrites – branched projections that receive signals from other nerve cells – is crucial for processing signals and for establishing a network of neurons. Researchers looked into how these crucial functions are regulated and found that a molecule called cordon-bleu – which plays an important role in neuron branching – is controlled by calcium molecules and a protein that attaches to calcium, calmodulin. By blocking calmodulin (pictured, 2nd and 3rd columns), dendrite growth and branching was inhibited, providing clear insights into how nerve cells are successfully sculpted.

Written by Katie Panteli

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