Blocking calcium channel to mitochondria apparently caused memory loss in flies but surprisingly did not affect their learning ability
Calcium is a mineral that is necessary for life and health. In addition to building healthy bones and keeping them strong with age, calcium also affects the areas of brain responsible for storing and retrieving memory. But the connection between calcium and memory has never been defined properly.
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Now, researchers from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) provide more insight into how calcium in mitochondria - the powerhouse of the cells – can affect the development of brain and cognition.
For this purpose, researchers carried out an experiment on fruit flies and blocked the channel that brings calcium to the mitochondria. This highly selective ion channel is known as mitochondrial calcium uniporter. Researchers found that the blockage caused memory impairment but surprisingly it did not alter learning ability.
“When we knocked down the activity of the uniporter, we found that flies have a deficit memory,” said Ron Davis from TSRI Department of Neuroscience. “Intact uniporter function is necessary for full and complete memory in the adult fly. What surprised us is that they were still able to learn – albeit with a fleeting memory. But we thought they wouldn’t be able to learn at all.”
Mitochondrial calcium uniporter serves as a passage for moving calcium ions from cell’s interior into mitochondria.
Fruit flies are a great model for studying different biological processes and the recent findings could have implications on human memory and learning but further researches are needed to confirm the outcome.
“The discovery of a developmental role for the mitochondrial calcium uniporter complex in regulating memory in adult flies is especially intriguing and deserves more exploration.”
The study was published in journal Cell Reports.