Neurons branch out: a role for Rem2

The development of the central nervous system involves a series of complex yet tightly-regulated processes, including the formation of synapses, the sites of communication between neurons, and the morphogenesis of the dendritic arbor, where the majority of synaptic contacts occur. Importantly, the misregulation of these processes is a hallmark of many neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism and mental retardation. However, the molecular mechanisms that underlie these structural and functional changes remain largely obscure.

The lab of Prof. Suzanne Paradis at Brandeis is working to identify and characterize molecules that regulate neural development in the rodent hippocampus. A recently accepted manuscript at Developmental Neurobiology by Brandeis Neurocience Ph.D. student Amy Ghiretti and Dr. Paradis uses RNAi in primary hippocampal cultures to identify novel roles for the GTPase Rem2 in several neurodevelopmental processes. The RNAi-mediated decrease of Rem2 leads to the formation of fewer excitatory synapses, and also results in increased dendritic complexity, suggesting that Rem2 functions normally to promote synapse formation and to inhibit dendritic branching. Additionally, the binding of Rem2 to the calcium-binding protein calmodulin was identified as a key interaction that distinguishes the signaling pathways through which Rem2 mediates synapse development and dendritic branching. Overall, this study identifies Rem2 as a novel regulator of several neurodevelopmental processes, and importantly, suggests that Rem2 regulates excitatory synapse development and dendritic morphology via separable and distinct signaling pathways.

Figure: Neurons in which Rem2 protein expression has been decreased by RNAi (top) show increased dendritic branching compared to control neurons (bottom), suggesting Rem2 acts to inhibit branching

Fall 2010 Brandeis Magazine on Campus

The Fall 2010 issue of Brandeis Magazine is on campus and will soon be mailed to alumni. This issue launched a new design, a companion website and a new name.

Cover of Fall 2010 issueBrowse inside and you’ll find in-depth coverage of Brandeis scientists and their research, as well as stories about undergraduates engaged in research in leading labs, profiles of alums in science and other science-related news. The cover story, written by science writer Deborah Halber ’80, profiles Liane Carter ’76 as she reflects on life with her autistic son, Mickey, now a 17-year-old facing an uncertain adulthood. Weaving into the story the research of neuroscientists Don Katz, Susan Birren and Sacha Nelson, along with Heller experts Marji Erickson Warfield and Susan Parish, Halber offers a vivid glimpse into this excruciatingly complex spectrum of disorders. And don’t forget to read the sidebar “My Life on the Spectrum” by Jake Crosby ’11.

A work in progress, the new magazine aims to include more coverage of scientists and their scholarship, arts and culture, along with features about alumni, faculty and students whose lives, jobs or personalities make for strong, compelling stories of interest to Brandeisians. The magazine includes two new columns. “Turning Points” is where alumni authors share their pivotal experiences and “aha” moments, while “Perspective” is reserved for faculty who want to pen an opinion piece that draws on their research interests.

So, check out the magazine and the website, which also allows you to share articles and find additional books by faculty and alumni. Please send comments and story ideas to gardner@brandeis.edu.

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