Summary: Researchers discovered that the orientation of a single amino acid in a sea slug can determine which neuron receptor is activated, leading to different types of neuronal activities. This finding sheds light on how the brain can regulate communication between cells in different ways.
Source: University of Nebraska Lincoln
With the aid of some sea slugs, University of Nebraska–Lincoln chemists have discovered that one of the smallest conceivable tweaks to a biomolecule can elicit one of the grandest conceivable consequences: directing the activation of neurons.
Their discovery came from investigating peptides, the short chains of amino acids that can transmit signals among cells, including neurons, while populating the central nervous systems and bloodstreams of most animals.
Like many other molecules, an amino acid in a peptide can adopt one of two forms that feature the same atoms, with the same connectivity, but in mirror-image orientations: L and D.