Synchronised neuronal oscillations at beta frequencies are prevalent in the human motor system, but their function is unclear. In this Opinion article, we propose that the levels of beta oscillations provide a measure of the likelihood that a new voluntary action will need to be actuated. Oscillatory beta activity is in turn modulated by net dopamine levels at sites of cortical input to the basal ganglia. We hypothesise that net dopamine levels are modulated in response to salient internal and external cues. Crucially, the resulting modulation of beta activity is predictive, enabling the appropriate prospective resourcing and preparation of potential actions. Loss of dopamine, as in Parkinson's disease, annuls this function, unless net dopaminergic activity can be elevated through medication.
The receptor for advanced glycation end products (RAGE) is a central signaling molecule in the innate immune system and is involved in the onset and sustainment of the inflammatory response. RAGE belongs to a class of pattern recognition receptors that recognize common features rather than a specific ligand. Recent structural information on the extracellular portion (ectodomain) of RAGE shed new light on this unusual ability. X-ray crystallographic, NMR and biochemical data suggest that ligand binding is driven largely by electrostatic interactions between the positively charged surface of the ectodomain and negatively charged ligands. In this article, I propose a putative mechanism of RAGE ligand recognition of receptor activation.
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a progressive age-related neurodegenerative disease. At the time of clinical manifestation of dementia, significant irreversible brain damage is already present, rendering the diagnosis of AD at early stages of the disease an urgent prerequisite for therapeutic treatment to halt, or at least slow, disease progression. In this review, we discuss various neuroimaging measures that are proving to have potential value as biomarkers of AD pathology for the detection and prediction of AD before the onset of dementia. Recent studies that have identified AD-like structural and functional brain changes in elderly people who are cognitively within the normal range or who have mild cognitive impairment (MCI) are discussed. A dynamic sequence model of changes that occur in neuroimaging markers during the different disease stages is presented and the predictive value of multimodal neuroimaging for AD dementia is considered.
The current definition of major depressive disorder (MDD) emerged from efforts to create reliable diagnostic criteria for clinical and research use. However, despite decades of research, the neurobiology of MDD is largely unknown, and treatments are no more effective today than they were 50–70 years ago. Here, we propose that the current conception of depression is misguiding basic and clinical research. Redefinition is necessary and could include a focus on a more narrowly defined set of core symptoms. However, we conclude that depression is better defined as the tendency to enter into, and inability to disengage from, a negative mood state rather than the mood state per se . We also discuss the implications of this revised definition for future clinical and basic research.
Allosteric drugs are increasingly used because they produce fewer side effects. Allosteric signal propagation does not stop at the ‘end’ of a protein, but may be dynamically transmitted across the cell. We propose here that the concept of allosteric drugs can be broadened to ‘allo-network drugs’ – whose effects can propagate either within a protein, or across several proteins, to enhance or inhibit specific interactions along a pathway. We posit that current allosteric drugs are a special case of allo-network drugs, and suggest that allo-network drugs can achieve specific, limited changes at the systems level, and in this way can achieve fewer side effects and lower toxicity. Finally, we propose steps and methods to identify allo-network drug targets and sites that outline a new paradigm in systems-based drug design.
Association between signaling proteins and their cellular targets is generally thought to be highly specific (implicating a high association constant, ) and, at the same time, transient or short-lived (corresponding to a high dissociation rate constant, ). However, a combination of high and high would lead to a high association rate constant ( = ), which poses a problem because there is a limit to which can be increased, set by the diffusional approach to form the complex. In this Opinion article, I propose that having the signaling protein disordered before binding to the target provides a way out of this quandary. The intrinsic disorder of the signaling protein would decrease without sacrificing the specificity of the complex, and thus would allow to be increased to a range appropriate for signaling.
Memories are often classified as hippocampus dependent or independent, and sleep has been found to facilitate both, but in different ways. In this Opinion, we explore the optimal neural state for cellular and systems consolidation of hippocampus-dependent memories that benefit from sleep. We suggest that these two kinds of consolidation, which are ordinarily treated separately, overlap in time and jointly benefit from a period of reduced interference (during which no new memories are formed). Conditions that result in reduced interference include slow wave sleep (SWS), NMDA receptor antagonists, benzodiazepines, alcohol and acetylcholine antagonists. We hypothesize that the consolidation of hippocampal-dependent memories might not depend on SWS per se . Instead, the brain opportunistically consolidates previously encoded memories whenever the hippocampus is not otherwise occupied by the task of encoding new memories.
Misfolded TAR DNA binding protein 43 (TDP-43) and Fused-In-Sarcoma (FUS) protein have recently been identified as pathological hallmarks of the neurodegenerative disorders amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) characterized by the presence of ubiquitin-positive inclusions (FTLD-U). Although TDP-43 and FUS are normally located predominantly in the nucleus, pathological TDP-43 and FUS inclusions are mostly found in the cytosol. Cytosolic deposition is paralleled by a striking nuclear depletion of either protein. Based on a number of recent findings, we postulate that defects in nuclear import are an important step towards TDP-43 and FUS dysfunction. Failure of nuclear transport can arise from mutations within a nuclear localization signal or from age-related decline of nuclear import mechanisms. We propose that nuclear import defects in combination with additional hits, for example cellular stress and genetic risk factors, may be a central underlying cause of ALS and FTLD-U pathology.
The ability to perceive one's position and directional heading relative to landmarks is necessary for successful navigation within an environment. Recent studies have shown that the visual system dominantly controls the neural representations of directional heading and location when familiar visual cues are available, and several neural circuits, or streams, have been proposed to be crucial for visual information processing. Here, we summarize the evidence that the dorsal presubiculum (also known as the postsubiculum) is critically important for the direct transfer of visual landmark information to spatial signals within the limbic system.
In response to genotoxic stress, eukaryotic cells activate the DNA damage response (DDR), a series of pathways that coordinate cell cycle arrest and DNA repair to prevent deleterious mutations. In addition, cells possess checkpoint mechanisms that prevent aneuploidy by regulating the number of centrosomes and spindle assembly. Among these mechanisms, ubiquitin-mediated degradation of key proteins has an important role in the regulation of the DDR, centrosome duplication and chromosome segregation. This review discusses the functions of a group of ubiquitin ligases, the SCF (SKP1-CUL1-F-box protein) family, in the maintenance of genome stability. Given that general proteasome inhibitors are currently used as anticancer agents, a better understanding of the ubiquitylation of specific targets by specific ubiquitin ligases may result in improved cancer therapeutics.