Intercellular Communication in the Nervous System Goes Viral

Author: Hantak, Michael P.; Einstein, Jenifer; Kearns, Rachel B.; Shepherd, Jason D.

Description: Viruses and transposable elements are major drivers of evolution and make up over half the sequences in the human genome. In some cases, these elements are co-opted to perform biological functions for the host. Recent studies made the surprising observation that the neuronal gene Arc forms virus-like protein capsids that can transfer RNA between neurons to mediate a novel intercellular communication pathway. Phylogenetic analyses showed that mammalian Arc is derived from an ancient retrotransposon of the Ty3/gypsy family and contains homology to the retroviral Gag polyproteins. The Drosophila Arc homologs, which are independently derived from the same family of retrotransposons, also mediate cell-to-cell signaling of RNA at the neuromuscular junction; a striking example of convergent evolution. Here we propose an Arc ‘life cycle’, based on what is known about retroviral Gag, and discuss how elucidating these biological processes may lead to novel insights into brain plasticity and memory.

Subject headings: Arc; RNA; Endogenous retrovirus; Extracellular vesicle; Intercellular communication; Neurodegeneration; Neuron; Retrotransposon; Synaptic plasticity; Virus; Brain

Publication year: 2021

Journal or book title: Trends in Neurosciences

Volume: 44

Issue: 4

Pages: 248-259

Find the full text:

Find more like this one (cited by): none yet

Serial number: 3333

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.