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A paper by Dr Liliana Minichiello and colleagues in the Department of Pharmacology, published today in Nature Communications, reveals an unexpected function of brain-derived neurotrophic factor signaling in brain cells called striatal medium spiny neurons (MSNs) located in the basal ganglia and involved, among other functions, in motor control.

Preferential loss of these neurons is thought to decrease the amount of inhibitory control over unwanted movements leading to chorea and hyperkinesia typically associated with Huntington’s disease (HD), a neurodegenerative disorder. In particular, the subpopulation expressing enkephalin and the dopamine D2 receptor (D2R) are the first to be affected.

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