Neurons Constantly Rewrite their DNA to Adapt to the Environment

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Neurons Constantly Rewrite their DNA

If you thought DNA was stable inside mature cells, you were wrong. Apparently, neurons are constantly changing to adapt to their environment. Minor surgeries are conducted toggling activity levels every single day. In effect, neurons constantly rewrite their DNA as needed. This information was discovered by John Hopkins scientists and published in the journal Nature Neuroscience on the 27th day of April this year.

Hongjun Song, Ph.D. says, “DNA, in a cell, is not always stable. It is being altered all the time in order to function. Even molecular tags, which maintains the cell’s identity, are constantly being altered.”

DNA Demethylation

The DNA’s four letter alphabet contains C’s, or cytosine. Regulatory tags, or methyl groups, are bound to these cytosines. To remove them, tagged cytosines would have to be replaced with untagged cytosines. Cells use this process, but sparingly, because the process requires cutting into the DNA, where cutting can cause mutations. Even so, studies show that mammals’ brains conduct DNA altering processes on a regular basis, even more so than other areas of the body. This poses a question for Song:“Why is all this activity occurring in such a sensitive area of the body?”

Communication

Neurons communicate with each other through synapses. One neuron releases chemical messengers and the receiving neuron intercepts the message using protein receptors. These neurons can adjust the settings – how many messages, or how many messengers transmitting the communication. This all occurs on the surface of the neuron.

Song’s team added drugs to neurons of mouse brains. This procedure gauged synaptic activity. The volume went up, and the activity of Tet3 gene went up as well, starting DNA methylation. When the volume was down, the Tet3 gene was down as well.

Conducting the experiments in the opposite manner showed surprising results. When Tet3 was up, activity was down and vice versa.

An additional experiment shows that if Tet3 is down, then a protein at the synapse called GluR1 is elevated. GluR1 is a receptor for chemical messengers and allows for the various toggling needed for neurons and synaptic activity.

Scientists have found a way to retain levels of synaptic activity so that neurons can stay responsive to their surroundings. If activity increases, then Tet3 levels increase, as well as excisions of tagged cytosines. When this happens, the levels of GluR1 decrease at the synapses. This reduces strength and brings activity levels back to their previous state. So basically, Tet3 levels respond to synaptic activity levels and the other way round.

If you stop neural activity, then neurons “turn up the volume”. This is done to get back to their normal activity level. Of course, it takes Tet3 to accomplish this feat,” says Song.

Considering the brain undergoes such risky behavior, it stands to question whether our brains experience damage due to unsuccessful excision. It doesn’t matter, however, and the activity will continue. It is a fundamental property of neurons to be able to regulate activity, so it’s a risk that will have to be taken.

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Sherrie

Sherrie is a freelance writer and artist with over 10 years of experience. She spends most of her time giving life to the renegade thoughts. As the words erupt and form new life, she knows that she is yet again free from the nagging persistence of her muse. She is a mother of three and a lifetime fan of the thought-provoking and questionable aspects of the universe.




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By | 2017-01-13T21:50:35+00:00 May 9th, 2015|Categories: Human Brain, Medicine & Genetics, Uncommon Science|Tags: , |2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. alpha yankee May 9, 2015 at 5:51 pm - Reply

    No not related with the environment. to adapt to time. because we live in a 4d space composed of future present past components including the dimension of conceptuality that is written by our subconcious. and time flows from future to past. and so both the future and the past are always re-written through probabilities. This is the ultimate answer to this phenomenon of neuron dna rewriting.

    • Arenxus May 24, 2015 at 12:01 pm - Reply

      We live in a world created by our minds. Nothing more, nothing less. This world is built on senses and understood through observation of those senses. Time doesn’t exist, so why would we, organisms adapt to time when we are only aware of the present? We exist of our past, and make changes in the present. So in essence, we do adapt to situations, we constantly react (apathy is also a reaction). We, humans, the self-proclaimed most advanced species on Earth, (by standards set through and thanks to rational reasoning) tend to forget that the condition of our brain, our mental health and spirit, created by that brain, is responsible for the world YOU live in. A great deal of that is common reality, and that one’s dominated by rationality and it’s observable dimensions. If you allow your personal rationality to get used to the idea of the non-existence of time, you will look at life a lot differently. Always remember, we weren’t meant to do ‘great’ things, we always want to evolve as a species, so you could conclude that the struggle of our DNA for survival continues once those strings of DNA have found a way to give conscious to this body. Your mind. And that’s being determined by two things; your biological heritage, including your potential, and your soul, who defines the path you wish to take. Once you harmonize those two, you will be able to live up to your potential. Until then, you’ll have to figure out a rational way to cut free from the rational ties to this world. But time my friend, isn’t the answer nor reason to anything but a question asked by rationality. You could start thinking in cycles, it’s everywhere, and cycles create time, but time on it’s own doesn’t exist.

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