- The formation of a mature, multilayered myelin sheath requires the compaction of lipid bilayers, but the molecular mechanism by which these bilayers condense is an open question. In this issue, Ruskamo et al. find that peripheral myelin protein P2 forms an ordered three-dimensional lattice within model membranes using Escherichia coli polar lipid liposomes. These data will help to understand the assembly, function, and structure of the myelin sheath.
- ATP plays important roles outside the cell, but the mechanism by which it is arrives in the extracellular environment is not clear. Dunn et al. now show that decreases in cellular cholesterol levels mediated by the ABCG1 transporter increase ATP release by volume-regulated anion channels under hypotonic conditions. Importantly, these results may imply that cells that handle cholesterol differently might experience differential extracellular ATP release during hypotonicity.
- The protein Nogo-A has been widely studied for its role in inhibiting axonal regeneration following injury to the central nervous system, but the mechanism by which the membrane-bound Nogo-A is presented intercellularly is not fully understood. New research suggests that a highly inhibitory fragment of Nogo-A is generated by the amyloid precursor protein protease BACE1 and presented on the membranes of exosomes following spinal cord injury. This finding represents a new mode through which Nogo-A may exert its effects in the central nervous system.
- The development of genetically engineered proteins that can control cell excitability with light have revolutionized our understanding of the nervous system. The most widely used of these optogenetic tools is the light-gated ion channel, channelrhodopsin 2 (ChR2). A new study by Cho et al. describes the development of ChR2 variants with improved photocurrents and more selective ion permeability using an automated multifaceted fluorescence-based screening. This methodological framework holds promise not only in refining features of ChR2, but also for other proteins in which fluorescence phenotyping is possible.
- Novel imaging techniques with ever-increasing resolution are invaluable tools for the study of protein deposition, as they allow the self-assembly of proteins to be directly investigated in living cells. For the first time, the acceleration in Aβ42 aggregation induced by the Arctic mutation was monitored in cells, revealing a number of distinct morphologies that form sequentially. This approach will help discriminate the impacts of mutations on amyloid protein processing, Aβ aggregation propensity, and other mechanistic outcomes.
- Some scientific discoveries land with a boom only to fizzle out and become a small blip—but there are times when this order is reversed. Such was the case with the discovery of γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain, reported in 1950. In a study published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry (1), preceded by a brief conference report shortly before that (2), Eugene Roberts (Fig. 1) and Sam Frankel not only identified GABA as a major amine in the brain, but also reported that it is produced and preferentially accumulates in this organ.
- Barbiturates induce anesthesia by modulating the activity of anionic and cationic pentameric ligand-gated ion channels (pLGICs). Despite more than a century of use in clinical practice, the prototypic binding site for this class of drugs within pLGICs is yet to be described. In this study, we present the first X-ray structures of barbiturates bound to GLIC, a cationic prokaryotic pLGIC with excellent structural homology to other relevant channels sensitive to general anesthetics and, as shown here, to barbiturates, at clinically relevant concentrations.