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Early Spring Issue (Apr. 2015)


Contributing to clarification of pathological conditions for neuropsychiatric disorders

Clarifying part of the control mechanism for spine density of synapses

Disorders in spatial learning in the mutant mouse

A research group led by Professor Toshio Ohshima of the Waseda University Faculty of Science and Engineering focused on cyclin-dependent kinase 5 (Cdk5), which is the protein related to the formation of spines in the mechanisms of synapses (joints between neurons) and spine (spiny structures on the dendrites of neurons). Synapses are needed to transmit information by neurons in the brain, and spine takes a role of receiving neurotransmitter as part of synapses. The research has clarified that Cdk5 is required for forming and maintaining the spines*1 and that the degradation of the functions of Cdk5 leads to the decline in the efficiency of synaptic transmission and the memorizing and learning functions*2.

In the case of neuropsychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia, the decrease in spine density has been detected. If the higher brain functions are normal, spines are formed healthily and spine density is kept constant. As part of the mechanism for controlling the spine density of nerve synapses has been elucidated, it is expected that the clarification of pathological condition of neuropsychiatric disorders will progress.

  • *1 These results were published online by the British journal “Cerebral Cortex” on November 17.
    Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 5 Regulates Dendritic Spine Formation and Maintenance of Cortical Neuron in the Mouse Brain
  • *2 This outcome was achieved through collaborative research with the Laboratory for Behavioral Genetics of RIKEN Brain Science Institute (laboratory head: Shigeyoshi Ito hara), and published online by the open-access journal “Molecular Brain” on November 18.
    Cdk5/p35 functions as a crucial regulator of spatial learning and memory