Institutt for biomedisin
BBB seminar

BBB seminar: Jason D. Shepherd

Virus-like intercellular communication in the nervous system


Jason D. Shepherd
Departments of Neurobiology, Biochemistry, and Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, USA

Viruses and transposable elements are major drivers of evolution and make up over half the sequences in the human genome. In some cases, these elements are co-opted to perform biological functions for the host. We recently made the surprising observation that the neuronal gene Arc forms virus-like protein capsids that can transfer RNA between neurons to mediate a novel intercellular communication pathway. Phylogenetic analyses showed that mammalian Arc is derived from an ancient retrotransposon of the Ty3/gypsy family and contains homology to the retroviral Gag polyproteins. The Drosophila Arc homologs, which are independently derived from the same family of retrotransposons, also mediate cell-to-cell signaling of RNA at the neuromuscular junction; a striking example of convergent evolution. I will discuss how this novel intercellular communication may lead to insights into brain plasticity and memory.

Chairperson: Clive Bramham, Department of Biomedicine