Overexpressing the Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in mice increases sensitivity to nicotine

A publication in Amino Acids by researchers from UPF, CRG and other centers provides the first in vivo evidence of the involvement of the CHRNA5/A3/B4 gene cluster in nicotine addiction. It happens through modifying the activity of brain regions responsible for the balance between the rewarding and the aversive properties of this drug. CHRNA5/A3/B4 codes for the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subunits A5, A3 and B4. Together they form the ligand-gated pentameric ion channels that modulate key physiological processes ranging from neurotransmission to cancer signaling. These receptors are activated by the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, and the tobacco alkaloid, nicotine. Recently, the gene … Continue reading Overexpressing the Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in mice increases sensitivity to nicotine

The effect of genes and environment on the consequences of ecstasy use

The Human Pharmacology and Clinical Neurosciences group of the IMIM-Hospital del Mar, lead by Rafael de la Torre, has published a paper in PLoS One  this week to try to clarify the association between cumulative use of MDMA (ecstasy), one of the most popular illegal psychostimulants abused among youth,  and cognitive dysfunction. They have also set to understand the potential role of candidate genetic polymorphisms in explaining individual differences in the cognitive effects of MDMA. Several studies have suggested that MDMA induces neurotoxicity, which primarily affects the serotonin system and is linked to memory dysfunction. There is also evidence that several gene polymorphisms may contribute to explain variations … Continue reading The effect of genes and environment on the consequences of ecstasy use

How does genotype determine phenotype?

Very interesting talk by Edward Marcotte today at the PRBB! He is an expert in proteomics, but touches all aspects of systems biology, and today he asked the following question: how does genotype determine phenotype? Can we predict the outcome of all the genomic variation we are uncovering with the many genomic projects we are doing nowadays? Well, his lab is certainly trying to do so, and using three different strategies which I will summarise very briefly: 1.  Using functional gene networks, which are based on data such as mRNA expression, protein-protein interactions (PPI), etc. These networks presumably are formed … Continue reading How does genotype determine phenotype?

Using smartphones to follow volunteers’ behaviour in an epidemiology study

An interview published in Ellipse, the monthly magazine of the PRBB. Audrey de Nazelle arrived here three years ago from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill where she had done a PhD in Environmental Science. This French mathematician, an ecological activist from a young age, has always understood the importance of politics in public health. She is currently doing a postdoc in Mark Nieuwenhuijsen’s group at CREAL, and together with him is leading the TAPAS project, which started in 2009 and which will run until 2012. Who is participating in TAPAS and what is its aim? We are the … Continue reading Using smartphones to follow volunteers’ behaviour in an epidemiology study

A new factor in non-centrosomal microtubule assembly

Chromosome segregation requires the formation of K-fibres, microtubule bundles that attach sister kinetochores to spindle poles. Most K-fibre microtubules originate around the chromosomes through a non-centrosomal RanGTP-dependent pathway and become oriented with the plus ends attached to the kinetochore and the minus ends focused at the spindle poles. The capture and stabilization of microtubule plus ends at the kinetochore has been extensively studied but very little is known on how their minus-end dynamics are controlled. Here Isabelle Verno’s lab at the CRG shows that MCRS1 is a RanGTP-regulated factor essential for non-centrosomal microtubule assembly. MCRS1 localizes to the minus ends of chromosomal microtubules and K-fibres, where it protects them from depolymerization. … Continue reading A new factor in non-centrosomal microtubule assembly