Science and Technology

USP study finds new function of protein that works in Alzheimer’s – 01/20/2023

A study carried out on the Center for Research on Redox Processes in Biomedicine (Redoxoma) describes a new mechanism for regulating glucose metabolism in a sort of mind cell generally known as an astrocyte.

In experiments with mice, scientists discovered that it’s potential to enhance the animals’ cognitive talents by interfering with this regulation.

The outcomes of the work revealed in Journal of Neurochemistrylevel to avenues for new analysis aimed toward understanding and treating ailments that have an effect on mind function.

The work was carried out throughout Joao Victor Cabral-Costa’s PhD beneath the supervision of University of São Paulo Institute of Chemistry (IQ-USP) professor Alicia Kowaltowski.

Within the Redoxoma – Center for Research, Innovation and Dissemination (CEPID) at FAPESP – Kowaltowski’s group has devoted itself to the study of varied processes that happen in mitochondria.

Although this cell organelle’s primary function is to generate power in the shape of the molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP), it additionally performs one other necessary exercise: the seize and storage of calcium (in the shape of Ca2+, a calcium ion) – a key component for performing on the physique.

As effectively as serving to to kind bones and enamel, calcium is a central regulator of mobile capabilities, controlling metabolism in some ways, for instance by regulating ATP manufacturing and power processes.

In addition, calcium is a crucial sign in the cell in processes corresponding to muscle contraction, cell differentiation and irritation, amongst others.

During Cabral-Costa’s PhD, the group investigated mitochondrial calcium transport in astrocytes, essentially the most considerable cells in the central nervous system.

Among the capabilities of this kind of cell is to supply vitamins corresponding to glucose and glutamine to neurons. Astrocytes additionally regulate the focus of neurotransmitters and different substances with the potential to intrude with neuronal function, corresponding to potassium. In addition, they’re half of the blood-mind barrier that protects the mind from pathogens and toxins.

In their work, the group demonstrated that a protein referred to as NCLX (sodium-calcium exchanger) – accountable for transporting calcium from the mitochondria – modulates glycolytic flux (the breakdown of glucose to generate ATP) and lactate secretion (a product of the transformation of glucose into power , when there may be not sufficient oxygen, a course of referred to as anaerobic glycolysis), shaping calcium signaling contained in the astrocyte.

Thus, the work confirmed that NCLX can act in the management of mind metabolism, affecting the transport of lactate from astrocytes to neurons and subsequently on mind function.

Cabral-Costa developed half of the investigation in collaboration with the group of Professor Juan Bolaños on the University of Salamanca (Spain), with the help of a grant for analysis internship overseas (BEPE) from FAPESP.

“The primary affect of this work was to open up a new line of analysis, a method to higher perceive the function of NCLX. We know that in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s it is vitally necessary, in addition to having a job in different ailments and different organs,” says Cabral-Costa.

“This is one of the primary works to look at modulation of mobile metabolism by NCLX. It is feasible that this protein acts as a sensor or is a component of an integration system that helps detect the power demand of astrocytes – immediately associated to the functioning of neurons and mind exercise,” he provides.

“As a analysis software, this discovering is essential because it reinforces the ‘lactate shuttle’ principle [termo que se refere aos transportadores de lactato presentes na membrana celular e mitocondrial]of the metabolic coupling between astrocytes and neurons,” says Cabral-Costa.


To examine the physiological position of mitochondrial calcium transport in mind function, the researchers turned to 2 public mouse mind transcriptomic databases.

When they regarded on the array of RNA molecules expressed in the central nervous system of rodents, they observed that astrocytes expressed as much as ten occasions extra NCLX messenger RNA than different mind cells.

Calcium fluctuations in the mitochondria and cytosol have an effect on metabolism, and NCLX is a mitochondrial protein accountable for mitochondrial calcium flux, shifting calcium ions from the mitochondrial matrix to the intermembrane area in alternate for extramitochondrial sodium ions.

Mitochondrial calcium administration is key to mind homeostasis, appearing in a number of processes, corresponding to the mixing of astrocyte-neuronal exercise, management of power metabolism, and neurodegeneration.

“In basic, once we hear one thing concerning the mind, it is pure to instantly suppose of neurons, that are the cells that transmit electrical impulses. In truth, the literature could be very targeted on neurons. But there are a number of different varieties of cells in the mind, primarily referred to as glial cells, of which astrocytes are a component and that are equally necessary,” explains the researcher.

To look at the consequences of NCLX on astrocyte function, the researchers pharmacologically inhibited the protein in a major tradition of mouse astrocytes.

As a consequence, they noticed a rise in glycolytic flux (extra breakdown of glucose for ATP synthesis) and lactate secretion, suggesting that NCLX performs a key position in the metabolic homeostasis of these cells.

Because lactate secreted by astrocytes is used as a substrate by neurons, with identified results on reminiscence and synaptic plasticity, the researchers determined to analyze the affect of these metabolic modifications on mind function in vivo.

To this finish, they deleted NCLX in hippocampal astrocytes and neurons in mice and subjected them to behavioral and cognitive analysis exams. The hippocampus is a mind construction concerned in the formation of new recollections and related to studying and feelings.

The researchers famous that deleting astrocyte-particular NCLX in the hippocampus improved facets of the mice’s cognitive efficiency. Deletion of NCLX in neurons promotes deleterious results.


With his work, Cabral-Costa obtained the prize for the very best oral communication amongst younger scientists and the very best poster of the day of the Young Scientists Forum held in 2022, in Portugal, throughout the occasion “The Biochemistry Global Summit”.

For the researcher, the work emphasizes the significance of fundamental analysis.

“We investigated the physiological function of a mitochondrial calcium transporter in mouse astrocytes. This is tremendous attention-grabbing from a biochemical level of view – astrocyte tradition, calcium monitoring, lactate doses. Have we discovered a treatment? No. But the paths we have opened permit new prospects for traces of analysis,” he factors out.

The article Mitochondrial sodium/calcium exchanger NCLX regulates glycolysis in astrocytes, influencing cognitive efficiency may be accessed at:

* With info from Redoxoma, Center for Research, Innovation and Dissemination of FAPESP.

This textual content was initially revealed by Agência FAPESP beneath the Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND license. Read the unique right here.

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