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.
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