Sugar Residues in Spinal Cord Regulate Growth and Survival of Nerve Cells

Author: Ruhr-University Bochum
Published: 2011/02/11 - Updated: 2022/06/15
Peer-Reviewed: N/A
Contents: Summary - Main - Related Publications

Synopsis: Specific sugar residues in the spinal cord regulate the growth and survival of nerve cells which control the movement of muscles. The brain and spinal cord comprise more than just nerve cells. The extracellular matrix, a complex scaffold of proteins with sugar residues, surrounds the cells and influences their well-being. This analysis showed that the chondroitin sulfate sugar residues not only regulate the growth of the motoneurons but can also lead to the survival of these cells.

Chondroitin Sulfate
Chondroitin sulfate is a sulfated glycosaminoglycan (GAG) composed of a chain of alternating sugars (N-acetylgalactosamine and glucuronic acid). It is usually found attached to proteins as part of a proteoglycan. A chondroitin chain can have over 100 individual sugars, each of which can be sulfated in variable positions and quantities. Chondroitin sulfate is found in human and animal cartilage. A chondroitin chain can have over 100 individual sugars, each of which can be sulfated in variable positions and quantities. Chondroitin sulfate (CS) is recommended as a therapeutic intervention in the multimodal approach to osteoarthritis (OA) management.

Main Digest

Researchers in Bochum have found that specific sugar residues in the spinal cord regulate the growth and survival of nerve cells that control the movement of muscles.

"We hope that our findings can improve regenerative treatment of nerve injuries," explains Prof. Dr. Stefan Wiese from the Molecular Cell Biology study group (Faculty of Biology and Biotechnology).

The researchers report on these sugar residues in the environment of the cells, called the extracellular matrix, in the Journal of Neuroscience Research.

Vision of Healing Nerves

The brain and spinal cord comprise more than just nerve cells. The extracellular matrix, a complex scaffold of proteins with sugar residues, surrounds the cells and influences their well-being.

Prof. Wiese's team is interested in the interaction of the matrix with specific nerve cells, which transmit signals from the brain to muscles (motoneurons).

Because injured motoneurons lead to paralysis, clinicians have great interest in being able to influence the growth of these cells.

"If we had a medication that could change the extracellular matrix so that it favors the growth and survival of nerve cells, that would be a large step in the treatment of nerve injuries after accidents or also for the treatment of diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis," says Prof. Wiese.

Growing Muscle-controlling Nerve Cells

In cooperation with Prof. Dr. Andreas Faissner (Chair of Cell Morphology & Molecular Neurobiology, Faculty of Biology and Biotechnology), Dr. Alice Klausmeyer from Prof. Wiese's team cultivated motoneurons from the spinal cord of mice on various kinds of extracellular matrix, from which the researchers experimentally removed certain sugar residues (chondroitin sulfates).

By comparing the cell cultures with and without sugar residues, they could show that the residues control the growth and survival of the motoneurons.

Staining, Counting and Measuring

To express the growth of the cells in understandable figures, the cell biologists in Bochum measured the longest process of the motoneurons under a microscope and counted the number of processes through which the cells had formed. With the help of the processes, the cells communicate and transmit signals across large distances.

Some of the chondroitin sulfate sugar residues examined positively affected the length and number of the processes; others had an inhibiting influence. The question of whether the growth of the nerve cells was supported or inhibited also depended on the kind of extracellular matrix with which a certain sugar residue was combined. Furthermore, the researchers stained for an enzyme in the motoneurons, a marker for cell death.

This analysis showed that the chondroitin sulfate sugar residues not only regulate the growth of the motoneurons but can also lead to the survival of these cells. The experiments performed by Dr. Klausmeyer and her colleagues were supported, amongst other things, by the RUB Rector's Office program for start-up funding of research projects for the next scientific generation.

Sources:

Klausmeyer, A., Conrad, R., Faissner, A., Wiese, S.: Influence of glial-derived matrix molecules, especially chondroitin sulfates, on neurite growth and survival of cultured mouse embryonic motoneurons. In: J. Neurosci. Res. 89:127-41 (2011). DOI: 10.1002/jnr.22531

Attribution/Source(s):

This quality-reviewed publication pertaining to our Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) section was selected for circulation by the editors of Disabled World due to its likely interest to our disability community readers. Though the content may have been edited for style, clarity, or length, the article "Sugar Residues in Spinal Cord Regulate Growth and Survival of Nerve Cells" was originally written by Ruhr-University Bochum, and submitted for publishing on 2011/02/11 (Edit Update: 2022/06/15). Should you require further information or clarification, Ruhr-University Bochum can be contacted at the ruhr-uni-bochum.de/en website. Disabled World makes no warranties or representations in connection therewith.

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