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How to Make a Dopamine-Producing Neuron

  March, 23 2009 3:50
your information resource in human molecular genetics

A 'control switch' that instructs immature cells to become dopamine-expressing neurons is revealed in Nature. The findings could help stem-cell researchers wishing to make replacement dopaminergic neurons for people with Parkinson's disease.

Nuria Flames and Oliver Hobert show that the protein AST-1 is needed to drive and maintain the differentiation of dopaminergic nerves cells in the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans. If the protein is absent, dopaminergic differentiation is impaired; adding the protein activates the dopamine production pathway.

Dopamine-producing neurons have been implicated in many activities including motor control cognition, motivation and pleasure. Many different genes have been implicated in their production, but AST-1 seems to be at the top of the pathway. Given that the protein and its functions are conserved in vertebrates, it is now a therapeutically relevant target for influencing dopaminergic cell production and maintenance.

Author contact:

Oliver Hobert (Columbia University, New York, NY, USA)
E-mail: or38@columbia.edu

Abstract available online.

(C) Nature press release.

Message posted by: Trevor M. D'Souza

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