jrs_porter3In an international collaboration with researchers and clinicians from Germany and Iran, GRE scientists Iain Porter and Jason Swedlow have demonstrated that a protein called Bod1, which they initially discovered based on its important role in regulating how cancer cells divide, is also critical for intellectual function and cognitive ability.  Their study reveals an amazing level of evolutionary conservation of Bod1’s function— from fruit flies to mice to man.

Reporting in PLoS Genetics the team identified an Iranian family where a number of individuals do not express the Bod1 protein. These individuals have very low IQs and moderate to severe learning difficulties. To demonstrate the importance and evolutionary conservation of this observation, the team also switched off Bod1 protein in the brains of fruit flies. This prevented the flies from learning to tolerate a harmless light startle test, demonstrating an inability to learn. Examining neurons from mice and fruit flies revealed that Bod1 localises to synapses – sites where signalling occurs between different neurons. Removal of Bod1 from neurons altered the shapes of synapses suggesting that Bod1 may play an important role in how neurons communicate.

BOD1 Is Required for Cognitive Function in Humans and Drosophila