Glycine receptors are present throughout the central nervous system and play a fundamental role in various psychological processes. An international team has decided to study how it works during embryonic development, involving researchers from: Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience (MPFI); University of Toyama; Yamagata University; Cairo University; RIKEN Center for Integrative Medical Sciences; Setsunan University.
Thanks to shared efforts, they have shown that the alpha-4 glycine receptor (Glra4) facilitates not only brain development, but that of the whole embryo. To fully understand the role of a gene, we need to eliminate it and study what happens. As a result, the researchers eliminated the Glra4 gene in a group of guinea pigs using CRISPR-Cas9. In this way, the researchers were able to observe the role of the receptor in the early development of fertilized eggs.
The receptor facilitates the development of the blastocyst, thus guaranteeing the quality of the embryo and controlling its size. The researchers observed the role of other types of glycine receptors within development. Genetic analyzes have highlighted the presence of variants within a good number of animal species, including humans. In our case, Glra4 is a pseudogene and we use another type of glycine receptor, Glra2. The latter performs the same task in humans as Glra4 in mice.
At the moment, the team is studying the effects of receptor destruction in the brain of mice. Preliminary data indicate that the absence of Glra4 could be linked to some psychiatric disorders. However, the study is still ongoing.