New imaging technology enables researchers to see gene expression in the brain of live mice in real time

New imaging technology enables researchers to see gene expression in the brain of live mice in real time

New imaging technology enables researchers to see gene expression in the brain of live mice in real time

A team led by the University of Minnesota Twin Cities has developed a new technology for imaging mRNA molecules in the brains of live mice. By genetically modifying a mouse so that it produced mRNA labeled with green fluorescent proteins (shown above), the researchers were able to see when and where the mouse’s brain generated Arc mRNA. Credit: Hye Yoon Park, University of Minnesota Twin Cities

A team led by the University of Minnesota Twin Cities has developed a new technology that enables researchers and engineers to visualize mRNA molecules in the brains of live mice for the first time. The research reveals new insights into how memories are formed and stored in the brain and can give researchers new information about diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

The magazine is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

There is still a lot of mystery surrounding the process of how memory is physically created and stored in brain. It is well known that mRNA – a type of RNA involved in the creation of proteins – is produced during the process of forming and storing memories, but the technology for studying this process at the cellular level has been limited. Previous studies have often been about dissection mice to examine their brains.

A team of researchers led by a faculty member at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities has developed a new technology that gives researchers a window into RNA synthesis in the brain of a mouse while still alive.

“We still know very little about memories in the brain,” explained Hye Yoon Park, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and lead author of the study. “It is well known that mRNA synthesis is important for memory, but it was never possible to image this in a living brain. Our work is an important contribution to this area. We now have this new technology that neurobiologists can use for various experiments. and memory tests in the future. “

The University of Minnesota-led team’s process involved genetic engineering, two-photon excitation microscopy and optimized image processing software. By genetically modifying a mouse so that it produced mRNA labeled with green fluorescent proteins (proteins derived from a jellyfish), the researchers were able to see when and where the mouse’s brain generated Arc mRNA, the specific type of molecule they were looking for.






Watch a 3D video that visualizes the hippocampal region in a living mouse brain. Credit: University of Minnesota

Because the mouse is alive, the researchers were able to study it for extended periods. Using this new process, the researchers performed two experiments on the mouse where they could see in real time for a month what the neurons – or nerve cells – did when the mouse formed and stored memories.

Historically, neuroscientists have theorized that certain groups of neurons in the brain fire when a memory is formed, and that the same cells fire again when that moment or event is remembered. But in both experiments, the researchers found that different groups of nerve cells fired every day, triggering the memory in the mouse.

For several days after the mouse created this memory, they were able to locate a small group of cells that overlapped or consistently generated Arc mRNA each day, in retrosplenial cortex (RSC) region of the brain, a group that they believe is responsible for the long-term storage of that memory.

“Our research is about memory generation and retrieval, “said Park.” If we can understand how this happens, it will be very helpful for us to understand Alzheimer’s disease and others. memory-related diseases. Maybe people with Alzheimer’s disease still store their memories somewhere – they just can’t retrieve them. So in the very long run, maybe this research can help us overcome these diseases. “

In addition to Park, the team included Seoul National University researchers Byung Hun Lee, Jae Youn Shim, Hyungseok Moon and Dong Wook Kim; and Korea Institute of Science and Technology researchers Jiwon Kim, Jang Soo Yook and Jinhyun Kim.


Neuroscientists identify mechanisms for long-term memory storage


More information:
Byung Hun Lee et al, Real-time visualization of mRNA synthesis during memory formation in live mice, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2022). DOI: 10.1073 / pnas.2117076119

Quote: New imaging technology enables researchers to see gene expression in the brains of live mice in real time (2022, July 6) retrieved July 6, 2022 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-07-imaging-technique-gene-brains -mouse.html

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