E. Suberbielle et al., “Physiologic neuron activity causes DNA double-strand breaks in neurons, with exacerbation by amyloid-ß,” Nature Neuroscience, doi:10.1038/nn3356, 2013.
Double-stranded breaks in DNA—generally thought to be a severe form of damage—may simply be all in a day’s work for neurons, according to research published yesterday (March 24) in Nature Neuroscience. Scientists studying mice reported that normal neuronal activation stimulated by exposure to new environments can cause temporary DNA breaks—suggesting that transient damage may be involved in learning and memory.
Neurologist Lennart Mucke at the Gladstone Institutes and the University of California, San Francisco, whose lab is currently focusing on this question, acknowledged that it’s not yet clear what function, if any, these DNA breaks serve. Given that neuronal activation leads to changes in gene expression that enable animals to learn and form memories, it’s possible that the double-stranded DNA breaks enable these changes in some way.