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Keeping brain development untangled

Picture of the hippocampus, a seahorse-like shaped braain region.

The hippocampus—the brain region associated with memory—is named after its seahorse-like shape. Here, a crystal seahorse with yellow and blue oil repelling colored water symbolizes the attractive and repulsive forces between the molecules, teneurin-3 (in blue) and latrophilin-2 (in yellow), that direct neural network assembly in the mouse brain.

Daniel Pederick and Tim Witherow
Jun 17 2021

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Research, Faculty, Staff

Multitasking molecules may be the key to solving the riddle of how the brain makes trillions of specifically coded connections between the brain cells known as neurons.

In mice, two molecules that stud cell surfaces can create attractive or repulsive forces between the brain cells they’re displayed on, a new Stanford University study has found. By attracting or repelling other brain cells questing for neural connections, the magnet-like molecules called teneurin-3 and latrophilin-2 play an important role in wiring the part of the brain that helps mice navigate and process information about the objects around them.The findings help explain how multitudes of neurons can connect in an ordered way using relatively few molecular “tags,” according to a study led by Stanford biologist Liqun Luo, the Ann and Bill Swindells Professor of Biology, and Daniel Pederick, lead author and postdoctoral research fellow with Biology. The study also reveals the architecture of brain development in one segment of the hippocampus, the part of the brain that encodes, stores, and retrieves memories.

The research was published June 4 in the journal Science.

Pederick worked with Luo lab research scientist Jan Lui to search for a cell surface molecule that was present in the opposite places teneurin-3 was found in the two parallel networks in the mouse hippocampus.