NEK7 protein regulates the formation of neurons, since it is required for the growth and branching of dendrites and for the formation and morphology of dendritic spines. These are the main conclusions of a study published in Nature Communications, carried out by researchers of the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona), the Institute of Neuroscience of the UB and the Molecular Biology Institute of Barcelona (IBMB-CSIC).
It is known that during cell division, NEK7 regulates microtubules and centrosomes, structures that help separating chromosomes during mitosis. However, researchers had never seen a function of this gene on neurons.
Microtubules are small filaments that shrink, lengthen, group and bend, depending on the requirements of the cells. These are involved in cell mobility, cell division and intracellular transport, among other functions.
Scientists used in vitro and in vivo models to prove NEK7 important so that neurons are properly created in the hippocampus, an area in the brain which takes part in the formation of memory. When researchers reduced the levels of NEK7, dendrites (neuron protuberances) were shorter and produced less and worse synaptic structures.
Consequences from neuron malformation in the hippocampus are still unknown, but NEK7 deficiency results in a complex animal phenotype, which suggests NEK7 could have more roles, probably in other brain areas.
Participants in this study led by Lens Lüders (IRB) were Professor Eduardo Soriano and the researcher Yasmina Manso from the Faculty of Biology, and members from the Institute of Neurosciences of the UB and the Network Center for Biomedical Research in Neurodegenerative Diseases (CIBERNED).
Francisco Freixo, Paula Martínez Delgado, Yasmina Manso, Carlos Sánchez Huertas, Cristina Lacasa, Eduardo Soriano, Joan Roig and Jens Lüders. “NEK7 regulates dendrite morphogenesis in neurons via Eg5-dependent microtubule stabilization”. Nature Communications, June, 2018. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-018-04706-7
Universitat de Barcelona