A huge number of nerves must be precisely wired together during the formation of our complex nervous system. All of these connections must be made accurately to allow the brain to faithfully control our movements, thoughts and behaviours. Researchers from the Centre for Developmental Neurobiology at IoPPN, King’s College London, in collaboration with the Institute of Neuroscience and the Department of Genetics at Trinity College Dublin, have discovered a new mechanism that guides growing nerves across the midline of the nervous system. The findings, published in the scientific journal Development, contribute to a better understanding of how nerves grow, an essential step towards developing potential therapies to aid regrowth of nerves after brain injury or disease.
In insects and vertebrates, the two symmetrical halves of the central nervous are separated by a specialized group of cells. In the fruit fly, Drosophila , these are called the midline cells. Many axons cross the midline to interconnect the left and right sides of the central nervous system, a process that is critical for neurons to form the proper connections. Professor Guy Tear, from Centre for Developmental Neurobiology, has found that a Drosophila protein called Mud, which is also present in humans where it is known as NuMA, plays a role in attracting axons to the midline and so direct them along their correct pathways in the nervous system.
Acting alongside other molecules, the Mud protein provides an alternative mechanism to guide growing nerves across the midline of the nervous system.
Kevin Mitchell, Trinity College Dublin
Guy Tear, King’s College London
This work was supported by a grant from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.