Kyoto [Japan], January 21 (ANI): At every stage of life, it seems that diet has an impact on an organism's physiological state. Although the metabolic demands of neural development, particularly the growth of dendrites and axons, are widely acknowledged, little is known about how different meals affect this process.
Researchers at Kyoto University's Graduate School of Biostudies have discovered that by using the right models, it is possible to investigate the molecular basis of the regulatory processes governing nutrient-dependent neuronal development.
"One such model is the Drosophila C4da -- or class IV dendritic arborization -- neuron located in the fruit flies' larvae," says lead author Yukako Hattori.
The dendrites of C4da neurons -- located between the epidermis and body wall muscles -- sense noxious thermal, mechanical, and light stimuli, subsequently transmitting information to the central nervous system to trigger avoidance behaviours.
"The growth of these dendrites is controlled by the environment in unexpected ways and becomes more complex. That is, a poor, low-yeast diet causes hyperarborization of dendrites," adds first author Yasutetsu Kanaoka.
After a systematic search for key nutrients, the team found that the hyperarborization phenotype was not caused by low concentrations of amino acids -- typical yeast nutrients -- but rather by a simultaneous deficiency in vitamins, metal ions, and cholesterol.
This deficiency increases the production of Wingless signalling molecules from body wall muscle. After Wingless is received by C4da neurons, it activates a protein called Akt, which promotes the complex branching of dendrites.
"While this excess growth of C4da neurons despite a nutrient-poor environment is counterintuitive, we were further intrigued by those neurons becoming less responsive to the noxious light stimuli," reflects Tadashi Uemura.
"Our study raises the possibility that nutrient-dependent development of somatosensory neurons plays a role in optimizing a trade-off between searching for high-nutrient foods and escaping from noxious environmental threats."
Using cell type-specific knockdown systems -- an established method to inhibit specific gene functions in a cell-specific manner -- the team identified the inter-organ signalling that regulates the hyperarborization phenotype.
"By focusing on the mechanism by which nutritional information is transmitted from the intestine to the muscle, we may unravel the molecular mystery linking food and health." (ANI)