Sea slug study reveals mechanisms underlying nerve cell connections
With its large neurons and relatively simple circuits, the sea slug Aplysia californica (pictured) is a valuable model system in neurobiology, famous for Nobel prize-winning work on learning and memory. Most recently, researchers used Aplysia neurons to investigate how cells control the movement of mitochondria. These vital organelles, producing energy in the form of ATP, are transported within cells to areas where this energy is most needed. When two neurons form a connection, or synapse, mitochondria fuel the signal transmission between them. Scientists found that, in Aplysia, synapse formation boosts mitochondrial movement, and triggers changes in the activity of around 4000 genes, causing a long-term shift in the pre-synaptic neuron’s makeup. These new insights could help find ways to address problems with mitochondrial transport, thought to be involved in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Written by Emmanuelle Briolat
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.