Scientists identify unexpected protein in beaver egg cells; may play role in neurological disorders

Researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UT Health San Antonio) have identified a protein that is found in the beaver egg’s central nervous system and may play a role in neurological disorders.

The study, published ahead of print in the American Journal of Human Biology, was led by Steve Thelen, PhD, of UT Health San Antonio, along with researchers at UT Health San Antonio Health Research, the Bolivar Institute at the Bolivar Consortium for Neuroscience Research and the University of Santiago de Compostela in Colombia.

Researchers have been studying a family of proteins called vesicles, which are emitted by live beavers, rabbits, llamas and African trypanos. Vismotes are large, vesicles-filled organelles found in the central nervous system that carry body fluids and are packed in tightly around the nervous system. “We know that vesicles in the animal nervous system communicate with other neurons signaling for help, such as feeding,” says Steve Thelen, PhD, a professor of physiology and growth biology and a member of the Bolivar Consortium. “This communication is necessary for survival with the nervous system.”

Vesicles are huge, no small data artifacts that help explain how organs regulate communication, and they play an essential role in a wide range of biological processes, including genetic regulation, neurodevelopment and even alterations to the human neurological and psychiatric systems. For years, Thelen and his colleagues have worked with human and rabbit populations derived from the vicinity of La Plata in Colombia, where the beavers once regularly produced thousands of vesicles, collecting and conducting comparative analyses.

“When we analysed the vesicle distribution in native rat populations we saw similar distributions in several brain regions, including the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala in a rat model,” says Thelen. “This supports the notion that the vesicles are shared in the rabbit population as well.”

It was clear that the vesicles from the beavers showed significant genetic diversity in Latin America, and that the regions where humanized vesicles were found also showed genetic similarities in features that are seen in most people. “In contrast, in U.S., we observed a regional difference in phenotype with the beaver vesicles showing genetic expression similar to that in people,” says Thelen. “This supports the notion that the beaver vesicles make important contributions to diversity of human brain areas.”

The beaver population is well-characterised for its high level of high-throughput DNA technologies and expertise in pursuing cell-based assays. Beavers host RNAase markers on their beaver glands, a time-released, quasi-natural marker that allows the animal to detect changes in DNA status. Study participants are up to 80% clone of a cognitive and emotional trait, and researchers confirmed widespread integrity of the vesicles and brain regions that contain them.

“Our study suggests that the beaver vesicles may have defined brain regions in humans and are a popular model system in the nervous system,” says Thelen.

The detailed anatomy of the human brain is rather complicated, he explains, and “binocets need be around the brain for them to communicate with other neurons.”