MadSci Network: Cell Biology

Re: do neurons contain the same genetic information as somatic cells?

Date: Sun Mar 23 20:17:41 2008
Posted By: Sarah Earley, Graduate student
Area of science: Cell Biology
ID: 1203467390.Cb

Hi Mark,

Neurons are somatic cells, and therefore contain the same genetic
information as other somatic cells (in contrast to germ cells such as sperm
and eggs, that contain half as many chromosomes as somatic cells).  All
somatic cells in an organism have the same DNA, collectively called the
genome.  A gene is “transcribed” into messenger RNA, which is then
“translated” into a protein.  Kinases are enzymes (proteins that catalyze
biochemical reactions in the cell) that add a phosphate group to other
proteins.  Conversely, phosphatases are enzymes that remove phosphate
groups from other proteins.  Proteins, and interactions between proteins,
can be activated or inhibited by the addition or removal of phosphate
groups, and this can influence cell behavior.  To answer your 2nd question,
kinases can impact transcription of genes, which dictates which proteins
are expressed in the cell, but kinases cannot change the genetic
information in a cell.  Regardless, kinases are key proteins in cell
signaling.  Signal transduction allows a cell to respond to extracellular
or intracellular cues, resulting in a variety of cell behaviors including
cell migration, proliferation, cell survival, etc.  For example, kinases
are involved in "firing" at a neuronal synapse.  Release of
neurotransmitters and ions into the space between nerve cells (called the
synaptic cleft) involves kinases, as does uptake of the neurotransmitters
by the neighboring cell. (Keep in mind that many proteins besides kinases
are involved in this process.)    

If this sounds complicated, it’s because it is complicated.  There are many
levels of regulation in cells, but somehow it all works!  

Please write back if you have any more questions, or want more specific

Sarah Earley
Postdoctoral Fellow
Albany Medical College

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