Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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You're Spotted

New genetic technique highlights the location of receptor proteins on nerve cells

13 December 2020

You're Spotted

Brain cells, or neurons, meet at busy junctions called synapses. Like hubs of chemical chatter, neurons on one side of a synapse pour in neurotransmitter chemicals to influence receptors – proteins on the surface of the neuron on the other side. Combinations of neurotransmitter and receptor can be excitatory (helping the receiving neuron to 'fire' an impulse) or inhibitory (blocking these impulses). Here a new genetic technique highlights a specific type of inhibitory receptor on this fruit fly neuron – green fluorescence revealing a distinctive criss-cross pattern, like fairy lights, although 10,000 times smaller. Now that researchers know where these receptors are, they can work to understand how patterns of different types of receptor work together to influence neuronal communication in the fly‘s brain. Eventually the technique will help to light up specific receptors on human cells towards spotting their role in development and disease.

Written by John Ankers

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