Process Leading to Protein Diversity in Cells Important for Proper Neuron Firing

facebook twitter google print email
Media Contact:Karen Kreeger | karen.kreeger@uphs.upenn.edu | 215-349-5658November 17, 2010

PHILADELPHIA – Cells have their own version of the cut-and-paste editing function called splicing. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have documented a novel form of splicing in the cytoplasm of a nerve cell, which dictates a special form of a potassium channel protein in the outer membrane. The channel protein is found in the dendrites of hippocampus cells -- the seat of memory, learning, and spatial navigation -- and is involved in coordinating the electrical firing of nerve cells. Dendrites, which branch from the cell body of the neuron, play a key role in the communication between cells of the nervous system.

The diversity of proteins within the human body -- in this case neurons – arises from the many ways that messenger RNAs (mRNA) can be spliced and reconnected. To start, a gene is copied into mRNA, which contains both exons (protein-coding regions) and introns (non-coding regions). Special molecules cut out introns and merge together the remaining exon pieces, resulting in an mRNA capable of being translated into a specific protein.

Click here to view the full release.

Multimedia