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Nervous System Development Detailed

Study outlines role of proteins in maintenance of neural stem cells

THURSDAY, Jan. 27, 2005 (HealthDayNews) -- Research in mice and fruit flies offers the first evidence that a group of proteins called phosphatases play an important role in nervous system development, says a study in the Jan. 28 issue of Science.

Phosphatases are necessary for maintenance of neural stem cells and for silencing expression of neuronal genes in non-nervous system tissues.

This study found that small carboxyl-terminal domain phosphatases (SCPs) are expressed in nearly all body tissues. In their "on" position, these proteins silence expression of neuronal genes in areas of the body, such as the heart and liver, where they aren't needed. When in the "off" position in the nervous system, these proteins allow neuronal stem cells to develop into specialized neurons, the researchers said.

The team of researchers from the University of California, San Diego and the Salk Institute concluded that SCPs are part of the previously identified master gene complex REST/NRSF, which controls neuronal genes.

"These findings suggest a way to expand the pool of neuronal stem cells, which could lead to new therapeutic strategies for neurological disorders," study senior author Dr. Gordon Gill, a UCSD professor of medicine, said in a prepared statement.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about the brain and nervous system.

SOURCE: University of California, San Diego, news release, Jan. 27, 2005
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