DGIST professors Ji Won Um and Jaewon Ko published a review paper compiling methods of intercellular communication in the brain

- Explaining the roles of various membrane proteins that facilitate interactions between astrocytes and neurons - Expected to provide critical insights for related R&D in the diagnosis and treatment of brain diseases

□ The joint research team led by Professors Ji Won Um and Jaewon Ko in the Synapse Diversity and Specificity Control Research Group (Center Director: Jaewon Ko) in the Department of Brain Sciences at DGIST (President Kunwoo Lee) announced on the 11th (Tuesday) that they have published a review[1] on astrocyte-neuron interactions. This review contains differentiated information that is expected to provide critical insights for related research and development.


□ Professors Ji Won Um and Jaewon Ko introduced various factors mediating astrocyte-neuron interactions in this review, summarizing research findings and trends from the past five years suggesting the mechanisms of how these factors operate to regulate the properties of synapses and neural circuits[2] and setting future research directions.


□ Synapses are the basic units that generate neural circuits overseeing all functions of our brain, and synaptic adhesion proteins in particular are key factors that form the connection structure between neurons and determine their characteristics.


□ Various glial cells exist around the synapses formed between neurons, contributing to determining the characteristics of the synapses. Astrocytes[3] among these are close to neurons, helping form synapses, stabilizing newly formed synapses, and removing weak or inappropriate synapses. Moreover, they play various critical roles such as forming the blood–brain barrier, regulating the ion concentration of neurons, supporting neurons, removing waste products, and performing phagocytosis. Astrocytes, along with neurons, play a crucial role in determining the characteristics of specific synapses within neural circuits through various interactions.


□ This review introduced the membrane proteins and releasing factors of various astrocytes discovered through recent RNA sequencing and proteomics techniques. It also explained how these proteins contribute to astrocyte–neuron interactions. Most of all, it summarized the latest research findings on specific membrane proteins expressed in both astrocytes and neurons and introduced public debates about certain proteins, thereby providing the latest information to readers who are unfamiliar with the field.


□ Furthermore, the review also introduced various neuropsychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders related to these factors, examining the possibility of elaborately regulating astrocyte–neuron interactions and using them to cure brain diseases in the future.


□ “This review is differentiated from others on the same topic in many aspects,” said Professor Jaewon Ko, Director of the Synapse Diversity and Specificity Control Research Group in the Department of Brain Sciences at DGIST. Moreover, Professor Ji Won Um in the Department of Brain Sciences added, “The research direction set by this review was proposed emergently based on unpublished findings of research currently conducted in our lab.”


□ Meanwhile, this research accomplishment involved Khai Hyunh Ngoc and Yeonghyeon Jeon, master's students in the Department of Brain Sciences at DGIST, as co-first authors, and it was published online on June 8 in Trends in Cell Biology, a prestigious international review journal in cell biology. The research was supported by the Ministry of Science and ICT’s Global Leader Research Project, Mid-Career Researcher Grant Project, and Bio & Medical Technology Development Project.

- Corresponding Author E-mail Address : [email protected]

[1] Review: It is a type of paper primarily found in academic journals where leading experts in a field are invited to summarize the latest research findings and achievements, outline recent trends, suggest future research directions, or identify challenges to be addressed.

[2] Neural circuit: It is an integrated concept that bridges molecular/cellular neuroscience and systems neuroscience, consisting of a group of neurons interconnected by synapses to transmit neural information within the nervous system.

[3] Astrocyte: It is a type of neuroglial cell, also known as a stellate cell due to its star-like shape formed by numerous dendritic processes radiating from the cell body.

Published: 17 Jun 2024

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