Wednesday July 16, 2003
Boston Cure Project
A new study examining differences between MS and non-MS brain tissue suggests that modifications to myelin basic protein (MBP) after it is created may play a role in the disease process. Proteins like MBP are strings of amino acids which are assembled in our cells based on the sequences laid out in our DNA. Before a protein can perform its function, however, it usually needs a few modifications such as phosphorylation or methylation (the addition of phosphate or methyl groups) at certain sites. These modifications have important effects on the way the protein folds up, binds to other molecules, and so on.
The authors of this study compared several types of MBP modifications
in post-mortem brain tissue taken from people with MS and non-MS controls.
They found that certain modifications (phosphorylation, methylation, and
deimination of arginine) differed significantly between the two types of
samples. The authors present additional evidence suggesting that these
differences play a role in inducing MS (as opposed to being an artifact
of the disease process or the post-mortem process). Perhaps these changes
in modifications to MBP affect its stability, or cause it to provoke autoimmune
responses not induced by normally modified MBP. At any rate, this theory
of MS as a disease of abnormal modification is interesting and will hopefully
be pursued further.
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