Signals from maternal blood promote cerebral maturation

Signal chain identified in the brain of the embryo

Ripening pyramidal neurons of the cerebral cortex © Ruhr-Universität Bochum
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The maturing of the unborn baby's brain is triggered by a "push" from the mother. A protein messenger from the maternal blood passes through the placenta into the embryo, where it stimulates the nerve cells of the brain for growth and interconnection. Researchers have now studied this pathway in detail and identified the molecules in the brain of the embryo that interact with the maternal messenger. Her work is published in the current issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

In earlier work, scientists from the University of Bochum and Petra Wahle, Professor of Developmental Neurobiology and colleagues from the Universities of Magdeburg and Münster, succeeded in isolating a small peptide messenger, the "survival-promoting peptide / Y-P30". This plays a crucial role in the development of the brain of embryos and newborns. Y-P30 improves the survival of nerve cells of the diencephalon and promotes the formation of cell foothills of nerve cells from the cerebellum and the thalamus.

"Interestingly, Y-P30 is not synthesized in the maturing brain itself, " explains Wahle. "Rather, it is formed during pregnancy by certain immune cells in the mother's blood, passes from there via the placenta into the embryo and accumulates among other things in neurons of the cerebral cortex." The scientists were able to use the peptide in the brains of fetuses and newborns of the rat that detect mouse and human.

Identified receptors

In order to study the biological role of the messenger and to elucidate its mechanisms of action, it was of central interest to find possible receptors for Y-P30. Now it was possible to identify molecules that interact with Y-P30. On the one hand it is pleiotrophin, a protein of the extracellular space. Furthermore, the so-called syndecans, proteins of the cell surface, interact. For both binding partners was already known that they can promote nerve cell growth.

Signal complex acts

The scientists were able to show that Y-P30 promotes the formation of the signal complex of pleiotrophin and syndecanene and stabilizes the complex. The signaling in the nerve cells is strengthened and promotes the growth of the cell processes. In parallel work of the Bochum scientists Prof. Petra Wahle and Suvarna Wagh a direct effect of the Y-P30 peptide on the growth of axons (nerve cell processes) could be shown. display

The signal-receptor complex of Y-P30, pleiotrophin and syndecan thus seems to promote the development of the axonal projection pathways and the interconnection of the brain.

(Ruhr-University Bochum, 11.09.2008 - NPO)