Printer Friendly

Zinc: moderator in brain cell chatter?

Zinc: Moderator in brain cell chatter?

Scientists have had few clues as to why there are highconcentrations of zinc in some areas of the brain, but new findings suggest a broad regulatory role for the metal that could have implications for understanding learning mechanisms and treating certain brain disorders. Zinc apparently helps control chemical communication between brain cells by modifying nerve cell receptors to different chemical messages, called neurotransmitters, say researchers at Stanford (Calif.) Medical School. The metal can either block certain receptors or enhance the activity of others, thus influencing how neurotransmitter chemicals affect a neuron, according to a report in the May 1 SCIENCE.

Using cultured mouse brain cells and microelectrodes,Dennis Choi, Steve Peters and Jae-Young Koh recorded the amount of intracellular electric current, which is used as a measurement of neurotransmitter action. They perfused the cell cultures with a variety of substances, particularly those chemicals known to affect the cells' surface receptors for the neurotransmitter glutamate. Neurons have three different types of glutamate receptor on their surface, and data from the Stanford group show that zinc helps control which type binds the neurotransmitter.

Perhaps most important is the metal's influence on the so-calledN-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor, which is blocked when increased levels of zinc are released into the synapse, or space between nerve cells. The NMDA receptors have been proposed as docking places for chemical mediators of learning and, when overactive, for brain substances that cause seizures as well as nerve cell death like that seen in Huntington's disease. Based on their research, the authors suggest that zinc may suppress overstimulation of these receptors, thereby protecting the brain from injury.
COPYRIGHT 1987 Science Service, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1987, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:Science News
Date:May 16, 1987
Words:273
Previous Article:Yeast or human, this gene's the same.
Next Article:Coming: the big chill?
Topics:


Related Articles
Electronics recycling bill advances.
A hopeful clue for resistant MS.
Stem cells & MS: what the investigators see.
Risk factor: throat cancer linked to virus spread by sex.
Cells' root: adult stem cells have a master gene.
Alzheimer's marker yields blood test.
This trick boosts cancer's spread.
Cell of Cells: The Global Race to Capture and Control the Stem Cell.
Brains, bodies, beliefs, and behavior.
Teaching science and religion in a Jewish seminary.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters