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Fly eyes used to 'see' new proteins involved in memory.

Byline: ANI

Washington, Aug 25 (ANI): Using the eyes of fruit flies, researchers from the US and Ireland have identified new proteins necessary for memory.

The discovery not only sheds light on this critical neurological process, but also provides information on a form of mental retardation in humans.

"Understanding translational control mechanisms in the brain teaches us how the brain learns and adapts, and will inform the design of treatments for specific types of neurologic disease," said study co-author Dr. Anne-Marie Cziko, of the University of Arizona.

The scientists specifically found that the "fragile X mental retardation protein", which plays a crucial role in the cellular processes involved in learning and memory, needs five other proteins to function normally.

They identified these proteins using an artificial system of increasing fragile X mental retardation protein in the eyes of fruit flies. Its high level leads to visible deformities in a fly's eyes.

For testing the requirement of various candidate proteins for function of the fragile X mental retardation protein, the researchers genetically modified the flies to prevent them from making each candidate protein.

It was found that loss of any one of the five proteins caused the fruit fly's eye to be significantly less deformed, revealing that each is required for function of the fragile X mental retardation protein.

As previous work suggested that the fragile X protein regulates gene expression via an important group of small RNAs called "microRNAs," the scientists tested whether the proteins they identified were required for a specific microRNA named "bantam" to function in fruit flies.

The researchers conducted their experiments by removing copies of the identified proteins from the fly.

Instead of looking at the flies' eyes, they looked inside the flies using a fluorescent protein that indicates how well bantam is functioning.

Surprisingly, the investigators found that none of the five proteins identified in the study had an effect on bantam.

To top it all, even the fragile X mental retardation protein didn't have any effect on bantam.

This finding and the identification of the five new proteins that interact with the fragile X mental retardation protein give new insight into additional and alternative functions of fragile X mental retardation protein.

They also indicate the need for more study into the fragile X mental retardation protein's function itself.

The study has been published in the journal Genetics. (ANI)

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Publication:Asian News International
Date:Aug 25, 2009
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