The Department of Biomedicine

BBB seminar: Petri Kursula

Using protein structures to understand myelin biology and disease

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Petri Kursula
Department of Biomedicine, University of Bergen

Myelin is a multilayered, tightly packed membrane wrapped around selected neuronal axons to enable rapid saltatory conduction of nerve impulses. During myelination, the plasma membrane of a myelinating glial cell wraps itself dozens of times around an axon, and eventually, myelin compacts to provide a thick proteolipid layer with little aqueous solvent. The importance of the correct formation and maintenance of the myelin sheath is highlighted by several demyelinating neurological disease conditions, such as multiple sclerosis and peripheral neuropathies. Many of the myelin-specific proteins are involved in disease, via either inherited mutations or autoimmune mechanisms.

Myelin contains a specific group of proteins, and the myelin protein composition differs between the central and peripheral nervous system. We mainly focus on high-resolution structural studies on myelin protein function, using recombinant myelin proteins and a variety of biochemical, biophysical, and structural biology methods. A number of specific properties of myelin proteins, including intrinsic disorder, protein interactions, membrane stacking, cell adhesion, and catalytic activity, can be understood much better with accurate structural data available. Our work on several aspects of myelin proteins will be presented, and examples will be discussed, where structural biology has provided information not accessible through other experimental methods or modeling.

Chairperson: Rolf K. Reed, Department of Biomedicine