Researchers have deciphered how neurotransmitter transporter proteins recognise their targets, a finding which may provide clues for better design of drugs used to treat depression.
The research at The University of Auckland focused on the creatine transporter, a membrane protein similar to neurotransmitter transporter proteins.
The research has identified the area of the transporter required for recognition of creatine, a discovery which may allow scientists to develop new drugs to block the activity of neurotransmitter transporters in the treatment of depression and epilepsy.
Details of the research are outlined in the most recent issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
Neurotransmitter transporters remove chemicals released during brain signalling, and commonly prescribed drugs for depression and epilepsy block this function. The discovery of the critical amino acids involved in substrate and inhibitor binding will allow scientists to conduct research into rational drug design and potentially develop better drugs for depression and epilepsy.
The research also provided molecular details of how creatine is taken up by cells. This has increased importance as creatine is increasingly being investigated as a potential nutritional supplement to delay the onset and progression of human neurodegenerative diseases such as Huntington?s and Parkinson?s. Further research will determine precisely where the creatine transporter is located in the brain and how creatine uptake is regulated in those cells.
“This research is very exciting and should lead us to greater understanding of how neural signals are transmitted,” says Associate Professor David Christie of the School of Biological Sciences. “We are gradually learning more about the brain, how it works and regulates itself, and we hope that this knowledge can be translated to treat develop treatments for human neurodegenerative diseases.”
The research was funded by the Auckland Medical Research Foundation and the Neurological Foundation of New Zealand.