Hidden synapse in mouse brain may advance our understanding of neural communication

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“The effects in the cell aren’t just short-term – some can be long-term,” added the study’s lead author.

“It’s like a new dock on a cell that gives express access to chromatin changes, and that’s very important because chromatin changes many aspects of the cell.”

A synapse is a junction between two nerve cells that consists of a small gap through which impulses pass via the diffusion of neurotransmitters.

The existence of synapses between the axon of a neuron and the dendrites of other neurons is generally known, but none has ever been observed between the axon of a neuron (nerve fiber) and the primary cilium, microtubule-based cell organelles that protrude from the surface of cells.

Researchers were able to peek deep inside the cell and cilia using Janelia’s high-resolution microscopes and state-of-the-art equipment to study the synapse, the internal signaling cascade of the cell and the alterations of the nucleus.

This discovery could advance our understanding of cellular communication

Neural system hologram – 3d rendered image.

Identifying the ciliary synapse may advance our knowledge of how cells communicate long-term changes.

Cilia, which project from inside the cell, near the nucleus, outward, may offer a faster, more targeted method for cells to make these long-term alterations, Clapham says.

“It was about seeing – and Janelia allows us to see in ways we couldn’t see before,” Clapham said.

“It opens up a lot of possibilities that we hadn’t thought of.”

It was not known why neurons and other cells in our bodies continued to protrude into adulthood with this bacteria-sized, hair-like structure. Due to the fact that these cilia were difficult to see using conventional imaging methods, scientists have generally overlooked them.

However, more recent advancements in imaging technology have sparked interest in these tiny extensions.


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