La Jolla, CA - Every neurobiology textbook invariably states that nerve cells communicate with each other through synapses, the specialized cell-cell contacts found at the end of the cells' threadlike extensions. In this week's journal Science, researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Sciences and the University of California at San Diego report that nerve cells, or neurons, may not have to rely on traditionally defined synapses to "talk" to each other.
The new study indicates that nerve cells can also release neurotransmitters outside of synapses. Neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers that nerve cells use to shuttle outgoing signals to adjacent neurons. Salk scientists refer to the release of neurotransmitters outside of synapses as "ectopic neurotransmission".
Cell-cell communications in other parts of the nervous system may also rely on ectopic neurotransmission, the new study suggests. This finding is an additional challenge to the descriptions of neuronal signal transmission found in neurobiology textbooks.
"Our results opened up the possibility that neurons can communicate many other ways not just at the traditional places that are defined by their anatomy," says lead investigator Terrence J. Sejnowski, who heads the Crick-Jacobs Center for Computational and Theoretical Biology at the Salk Institute. To investigate cell-to-cell communication in the nervous system, Sejnowski and his colleagues developed a computer model simulating signal transmission at a particular synapse in chick embryos. The computer model convinced Sejnowski and his collaborators that it may be time to rethink cell-to-cell communication in the nervous system.
In the past, the suggestion that neurotransmitters could be released and find their targets outside of clearly defined synapses, was considered an almost heretical notion.
A unique collaboration between anatomists and physiologists at the University of California in San DiegoPage: 1 2 3 4 Related biology news :1
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