University of Trento discovered how micro-RNA helps neurons
A research team, coordinated by Marie-Laure Baudet of the Centre for Integrative Biology (CIBIO) of the University of Trento, has identified one of the crucial processes in the formation of neuronal connections.
The study, published in Cell Reports, describes how micro-RNA works – small molecules of ribonucleic acid, implied in the regulation of a number of physiological processes both in plants and animals, in helping axons, responsible for the management of centrifuge impulses with respect to the cellular body, in the interpretation of messages that allow neurons to get together and connect to target cells during the formation of the nervous system, an event of crucial importance in the brain development process.
The study shows the crucial role of micro-RNA in recognizing the right path codified by signaling molecules, or “chemotactic” molecules, which guide axons with extreme precision towards their final destination. The test was made by experimentally removing a specific micro-RNA from an axon, which lost its capability to interpret the signals received from the environment, and failing to reach its target, it establishes aberrant neural connections.
The occurrence of errors during these connections can have devastating consequences and cause serious cognitive-behavioural diseases.
Deciphering the molecular mechanisms that lead to the correct formation of neural networks established thanks to the micro-RNA work is an important step to reach the full understanding of dysfunctions that can occur during the setting up of a thick network of nervous circuits underlying every brain activity, on which baseline physiological processes depend, such as sensory perception, as well as more complex cognitive functions, such as decision-making activities, which could lead to identifying new therapeutic strategies.
These important achievements result from a 5-year study carried out in collaboration with the University of Cambridge, where Marie-Laure Baudet has worked until 2012, when she moved to Italy and set up her laboratory at CIBIO in Trento, thanks to the Career Development Award programme of the Armenise-Harvard Foundation.