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Synapse Proteins Could Lead to Multiple Psychiatric Disorders Treatments: Study

Update Date: Nov 16, 2014 08:59 PM EST

Researchers from The Scripps Research Institute have identified new therapeutic targets for memory disorders.

The new study focuses on a protein that helps carry other proteins to various parts of the nerve cell, prominently to the synaptic connections between two nerve cells. Researchers studied a specific transporter protein called Kinesin to understand psychiatric disorders including Alzheimer's and Huntington's diseases and dementia.

"We know these molecules function in the synapse, and if we can regulate their function there may be some very good therapeutic opportunities there," said Sathyanarayanan V Puthanveettil, a biologist at the institute,in a press release.

When researchers examined kinesin molecules, they found that 40 to 50 percent of the time they carried other proteins to the synapse. Through the identity and location of the transporter kinesin molecules, researchers could determine the transport cargo protein. Further analysis of these molecules implicated the transport cargo protein in disorders.

"A bioinformatics analysis revealed the three kinesin cargo complexes examined in the study are involved in neurologic diseases. Approximately 60 cargos (out of 155) of the kinesin Kif5C are implicated in psychiatric disorders, while around 20 cargos of another kinesin Kif3A are implicated in developmental disorders," researchers wrote.

"This has shown for the first time how kinesins expressed in the same neurons can carry substantially different cargos. We can use this approach to identify what molecules may be targeted for memory and in major disorders. The next step is to find how the synaptic proteome changes in neuropsychiatric diseases," said study's first author Xin-An Liu.

In a related study, Puthanveettil and his team described a screening test to discover potential drugs based on the Kinesin study.

"We are actively looking at molecules critical to memory formation, so these two studies work in parallel. In one study, we're reaching for a basic understanding of the process, and in the other, we're finding new ways to identify drug candidates so that we can cure these diseases," Puthanveettil said. 

The findings of the studies have been published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and ASSAY. 

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