Memory Research Aided By Technique For Tracking Protein Age

The ability to track how old a protein is could lead to a better understanding of processes such as learning and memory.

AsianScientist (Sep. 8, 2014) – A new method of identifying the creation of proteins in the body could lead to insights into how learning and memories are impaired in Alzheimer’s disease.

Scientists at The University of Queensland have developed processes that use the amino acids generated by new proteins to identify proteins as they are created. This new method has been published in the journal Nature Protocols, and applied to a study of ageing in Caenorhabditis elegans published in Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences.

By tagging newly synthesised proteins, the researchers will be able to determine whether they are created in response to internal stimuli such as regular cellular activity, or external stimuli such as learning activities. Study leader Professor Jürgen Götz, Director of the Clem Jones Center for Ageing Dementia Research at the Queensland Brain Institute, said the insights could be vital in the battle against ageing dementia.

“What we have developed can be applied to many cellular processes, including what happens in neurodegeneration and dementia,” Prof. Götz said. “It is important to understand how learning and memory occurs, because with research like this we hope someday to be able to create treatments that halt or reverse degeneration and the ensuing functional impairment.”

While it is believed that proteins play a key role in learning and memory formation because their composition changes during these processes, their exact function and identity remains a mystery. One obstacle, said Prof. Götz, was that it had previously been impossible to determine the age of proteins in the body.

“With this new method we are now able to determine which proteins are created in these processes. A protein could have been newly created or ten years old, and using conventional methods we were unable to determine its age,” he said.

“By creating a method of labeling new proteins as they are created in vivo—within the body—we are able to track those proteins, and this will give a valuable insight into understanding the role proteins play in learning and memory.”

The articles can be found at:
Ullrich et al. (2014) Bio-orthogonal labeling as a tool to visualize and identify newly synthesized proteins in Caenorhabditis elegans.
Liang et al. (2014) Altered proteostasis in aging and heat shock response in C. elegans revealed by analysis of the global and de novo synthesized proteome.


Source: University of Queensland; Photo: snickclunk/Flickr/CC.
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