Several billion neurons communicate with each other in the body so that people or other living things can perceive and interact with their environment. Countless complex chemical and electrical processes take place within a few milliseconds.
Professor John says, “In the synapses of neurons, special messenger substances – called“ neurotransmitters ”- are released that transmit information between individual neurons. Dr. Karla Schmidt of MLU’s HALOmem Innovation Competence Center. These messenger substances are packed into vesicles. Small, synaptic vesicles. In response to an electrical impulse, the latter fuses with the cell membrane and thus releases the transmitter substances, which in turn are recognized by special receptor proteins in the following neurons. To achieve this, many proteins work together, intertwining like gears in the clock mechanism. Schmidt that so far, very little is known about how this process works in detail.
Researchers have now investigated this process with the help of a special form of mass spectrometry. With the so-called mass cross-spectrometry, it is possible to determine the interaction points of proteins. It is mixed with a substance that binds the proteins together at a close distance. Depending on how the proteins interact with each other, this substance interacts in different places. The mass spectrometer analyzes the correlation pattern, which can be used to draw conclusions about the arrangement of proteins. In this way, the researchers were able to examine the different stages of vesicles and also elucidate the protein networks that had formed.
Halle’s study helps to better understand the process of signal transduction in neurons. Knowing the natural processes is the basis for recognizing and understanding the malfunctions that can lead to diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
The study was supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.
Wittig S. et al. Crossover mass spectrometry reveals protein interactions and functional groupings in synaptic vesicle membranes. Nature Communications (2021). DOI: 10.1038 / s41467-021-21102-w