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Parallel Parking

Protein called Zeb2 helps keep the brain's neurons orderly

21 August 2021

Parallel Parking

Imagine the task – arranging billions of fragile brain cells so they can 'plug in' to each other and other brain regions without getting in each other’s way. In the developing neocortex, shown here under a high-powered microscope, each cell has its place. Arrays of fizzling neurons (highlighted in blue) arrange in parallel layers, helping to define brains regions involved in decision-making, voluntary movement and language. But how? Scientists find a protein called Zeb2 works with molecules both inside and outside neurons to help them migrate into place at the right time, then extend their main 'branches', known as apical dendrites, in the same direction ensuring they stay parallel. Although this is a mouse’s brain, humans have Zeb2 as well, and further research may help to treat problems that occur when this crucial molecule is damaged or mutated, such as in Mowat-Wilson syndrome.

Written by John Ankers

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