Insight on Research


Redefining the importance of astrocytes in the brain’s master body clock

A body clock puppet is moved around the clock by puppeteers representing astrocyte- and neuron-driven control

Our daily cycle of sleep and wakefulness – our circadian rhythm – is controlled by a central master clock in our brains: the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). Previously, Michael Hastings’ group in the LMB’s Neurobiology Division had demonstrated that astrocytes were not merely the supporting cells that they had been thought to be, but also had a role in driving the body clock alongside the approximately 10,000 neurons found in the SCN.

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Structures of the human GABAA receptor reveal how it functions and could help improve key drugs

Structure of the human 132 GABAA receptor in a lipid nanodisc

Practically all brain functions are controlled through a finely tuned balance of neuronal excitation and inhibition. The main inhibitory neurotransmitter in vertebrates is gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA signals through two types of cell surface receptors: GABAA and GABAB, with GABAA receptors mediating millisecond-fast neurotransmission and GABAB receptors mediating slower signalling events.

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