With this finding, the researchers have made an important contribution to understanding how neural networks are formed during embryonic development and have found a new approach to explaining neurological disorders. (PLoS Biology, February 2011).
During embryonic development, sensory and motor fibers interact to form nerves in the limbs. The research team led by Dr. Andrea Huber Brösamle of the Institute of Developmental Genetics of Helmholtz Zentrum München has now elucidated how this interaction functions at the molecular level: The cell surface receptor neuropilin-1 is present in both sensory and motor nerve fibers and controls their interaction in order to correctly regulate growth.
“We observed that motor and sensory axons were both able to guide and lead the formation of the spinal nerves of the arms and legs,” said Rosa-Eva Hüttl and Heidi Söllner, lead authors of the study and doctoral students in Dr. Andrea Huber Brösamle’s research group. This finding surprised the authors because it had previously been assumed that the motor axons were always responsible for establishing the correct trajectories. In the same study, the researchers created a model to better elucidate structural changes in human neurodegenerative disorders and following trauma : “Our next goal,” said Dr. Huber Brösamle, “is to find out to what extent neuropilin-1 also controls the formation of fiber tracts in the brain.”
Nerves are bundles of sensory and motor fibers. The sensory fibers transmit physical sensation signs (e.g. pain), while the motor fibers control the contraction and movement of muscles.
Huettl R.E. et al. (2011). Npn-1 contributes to axon-axon interactions that differentially control sensory and motor innervation of the limb. PLoS Biol 9(2): e1001020. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001020
Helmholtz Zentrum München is the German Research Center for Environmental Health. As leading center of Environmental Health, it focuses on chronic and complex diseases, which develop from the interaction of environmental factors and individual genetic disposition. Helmholtz Zentrum München has around 1700 staff members. The head office of the center is located in Neuherberg to the north of Munich on a 50-hectare research campus. Helmholtz Zentrum München belongs to the Helmholtz Association, Germany’s largest research organization, a community of 16 scientific-technical and medical-biological research centers with a total of 30,000 staff members.
Contact for Media Representatives
Sven Winkler . Helmholtz Zentrum München – German Research Center for Environmental Health, Ingolstädter Landstraße 1, 85764 Neuherberg, Germany. Phone: +49(0)89-3187-3946. Fax +49(0)89-3187-3324, Internet: www.helmholtz-muenchen.de . e-mail: [email protected]
Dr. Andrea Huber Brösamle . Helmholtz Zentrum München – German Research Center for Environmental health, Ingolstädter Landstraße 1, 85764 Neuherberg, Germany. Phone: +49(0)89-3187-4117. Fax +49(0)89-3187-3099, Internet: www.helmholtz-muenchen.de . e-mail: [email protected]