Mystery About the Evolution of the Nervous System. Many Proteins Share the Same Functions

A team from the Karl Landsteiner University in Krems, Austria, finds a high redundancy in proteins that modulate neuronal networks and neuronal signal transmission
By: Karl Landsteiner University of Health Sciences
KREMS, Austria - Oct. 25, 2022 - PRLog -- Not just three, but even five proteins share important roles in the formation and function of synapses and can substitute for each other. This discovery was made by a team of the research focus "Mental Health & Neuroscience" of the Karl Landsteiner University of Health Sciences Krems (KL Krems) and the CavX PhD program of the Medical University of Innsbruck. Most of these proteins are components of so-called calcium channels, and only recently the team had succeeded in discovering redundant functions for three of the proteins in synapse formation and neuronal signal transmission. The recent finding, that two additional proteins (α2δ-4 and Cachd1) can fulfill the same functions is surprising and raises questions about the evolution of the nervous system.

Ion channels serve to conduct signals in the nervous system, so it is essential that their function is tightly regulated. Proteins of the α2δ-family (pronounced "alpha-two-delta") play an important role in this process. They serve as regulatory subunits of calcium channels and hence for a long time they are known to regulate calcium currents. Recently, however, Univ. Prof. Dr. Gerald Obermair, head of the Division of Physiology at the KL Krems, and his team were able to show that three of the four α2δ-proteins are also chiefly involved in the formation of synapses and that they can substitute for each other in this fundamental function. This caused a considerable stir, as α2δ-proteins are associated with diseases such as epilepsy, autism, schizophrenia, and anxiety. Now Prof. Obermair and his research group have succeeded in showing that the last of the four proteins of this family and also another protein not only influence synapse formation, but also affect signal transmission.

Scientific Contact

Prof. Dr. Gerald Obermair

Dept. Pharmacology, Physiology & Microbiology

Division Physiology

Karl Landsteiner University of Health Sciences

Dr.-Karl-Dorrek-Straße 30

3500 Krems / Austria

T +43 2732 720 90 490


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