Seminar – MPFI Seminar
Virus-like intercellular communication in the nervous system
Jason D. Shepherd
The neuronal gene Arc is essential for long-lasting information storage in the mammalian brain, mediates various forms of synaptic plasticity, and has been implicated in neurodevelopmental disorders. However, little is known about Arc’s molecular function and evolutionary origins. We recently discovered that Arc self-assembles into viral-like capsids that encapsulate RNA. Endogenous Arc protein is released from neurons in extracellular vesicles that mediate the transfer of Arc mRNA into new target cells, where it can undergo activity-dependent translation. Evolutionary analysis indicates that Arc is derived from a vertebrate lineage of Ty3/gypsy retrotransposons, which are also ancestral to retroviruses such as HIV. These findings suggest that Gag retroelements have been repurposed during evolution to mediate intercellular communication in the nervous system.