Researchers discover that the extra chromosome inherited in Down syndrome impairs learning and memory because it leads to low levels of SNX27 protein in the brain.
What is it about the extra chromosome inherited in Down syndrome—chromosome 21—that alters brain and body development? Researchers have new evidence that points to a protein called sorting nexin 27, or SNX27. SNX27 production is inhibited by a molecule encoded on chromosome 21. The study, published March 24 in Nature Medicine, shows that SNX27 is reduced in human Down syndrome brains. The extra copy of chromosome 21 means a person with Down syndrome produces less SNX27 protein, which in turn disrupts brain function. What’s more, the researchers showed that restoring SNX27 in Down syndrome mice improves cognitive function and behavior.