The channel protein Pannexin1 keeps nerve cells flexible and thus the brain receptive for new knowledge. Together with colleagues from Canada and the U.S., researchers at the Ruhr-Universit-t Bochum led by the junior professor Dr. Nora Prochnow from the Department of Molecular Brain Research describe these results in PLoS ONE. In the study, mice comprising no Pannexin1 in memory-related brain structures displayed symptoms similar to autism. Their nerve cells lacked synaptic plasticity, i.e. the ability to form new synaptic contacts or give up old contacts based on the level of usage.
Pannexins are abundant in the central nervous system of vertebrates
Pannexins traverse the cell membrane of vertebrate animals and form large pored channels. They are permeable for certain signalling molecules, such as the energy storage molecule ATP (adenosine triphosphate). The best known representative is Pannexin1, which occurs in abundance in the brain and spinal cord and among others in the hippocampus - a brain structure that is critical for long-term memory. Malfunctions of the pannexins play a role in the development of epilepsy and strokes.
No more scope in long-term potentiation