Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Signs of Stress

Enzyme message from skeletal muscles reaches the brain and protects it from degenerative changes

17 May 2021

Signs of Stress

In a moment of stress, you might send a panicked text message to a far-off friend. Whether it’s a cry for help or word of warning, similar long-distance camaraderie exists between disparate parts of your body as well. Stressed cells release many molecular messages to neighbours. Researchers examined such signals sent by skeletal muscles all the way to the brain, and found they relied on a particular protein, an enzyme called amyrel, and the sugary molecules it produces. These signals prevented the buildup of misfolded proteins in the brain and eye of fruit fly subjects (pictured, the retina on the right free of yellow and red protein debris after receiving the signals). Muscle stress responses appear to provide a protective service to the brain, in a process that maintains health and staves off neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. Perhaps enhancing this signal could ultimately help the brain keep threats at arm’s length.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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