UQ research finds molecular doorways to help deliver drugs into the brain

A University of Queensland researcher has found molecular doorways that could be used to help deliver drugs into the brain to treat neurological disorders.

Dr. Rosemary Cater from UQ's Institute for Molecular Bioscience led a team which discovered that an essential nutrient called choline is transported into the brain by a protein called FLVCR2.

Choline is a vitamin-like nutrient that is essential for many important functions in the body, particularly for brain development.

We need to consume 400-500 mg of choline per day to support cell regeneration, gene expression regulation, and for sending signals between neurons."

Dr. Rosemary Cater from UQ's Institute for Molecular Bioscience

Dr. Cater said that until now, little was known about how dietary choline travels past the layer of specialized cells that separates the blood from the brain.

"This blood-brain barrier prevents molecules in the blood that are toxic to the brain from entering," she said.

"The brain still needs to absorb nutrients from the blood, so the barrier contains specialised cellular machines – called transporters – that allow specific nutrients such as glucose, omega-3 fatty acids and choline to enter.

"While this barrier is an important line of defence, it presents a challenge for designing drugs to treat neurological disorders."

Dr Cater was able to show that choline sits in a cavity of FLVCR2 as it travels across the blood-brain barrier and is kept in place by a cage of protein residues.

"We used high-powered cryo-electron microscopes to see exactly how choline binds to FLVCR2," she said.

"This is critical information for understanding how to design drugs that mimic choline so that they can be transported by FLVCR2 to reach their site of action within the brain.

"These findings will inform the future design of drugs for diseases such as Alzheimer's and stroke."

The research also highlights the importance of eating choline-rich foods – such as eggs, vegetables, meat, nuts and beans.

The research is published in Nature and funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Dr Cater joined UQ in 2024 on an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award. She performed most of this research in the lab of Professor Filippo Mancia at Columbia University in New York, and worked in close collaboration with the lab of Associate Professor Thomas Arnold from the University of California San Francisco.

Source:
Journal reference:

Cater, R. J., et al. (2024). Structural and molecular basis of choline uptake into the brain by FLVCR2. Nature. doi.org/10.1038/s41586-024-07326-y.

Comments

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
Post a new comment
Post

While we only use edited and approved content for Azthena answers, it may on occasions provide incorrect responses. Please confirm any data provided with the related suppliers or authors. We do not provide medical advice, if you search for medical information you must always consult a medical professional before acting on any information provided.

Your questions, but not your email details will be shared with OpenAI and retained for 30 days in accordance with their privacy principles.

Please do not ask questions that use sensitive or confidential information.

Read the full Terms & Conditions.

You might also like...
Study links gut health and brain function in resilient individuals