A recent scientific discovery showed that mutations in prickle genes cause epilepsy, which in humans is a brain disorder characterized by repeated seizures over time. However, the mechanism responsible for generating prickle-associated seizures was unknown.
A new University of Iowa study, published online July 14 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reveals a novel pathway in the pathophysiology of epilepsy. UI researchers have identified the basic cellular mechanism that goes awry in prickle mutant flies, leading to the epilepsy-like seizures.
"This is to our knowledge the first direct genetic evidence demonstrating that mutations in the fly version of a known human epilepsy gene produce seizures through altered vesicle transport," says John Manak, senior author and associate professor of biology in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and pediatrics in the Carver College of Medicine.
Seizure suppression in flies
A neuron has an axon (nerve fiber) that projects from the cell body to different neurons, muscles, and glands. Information is transmitted along the axon to help a neuron function properly.
Manak and his fellow researchers show that seizure-prone prickle mutant flies have behavioral defects (such as uncoordinated gait) and electrophysiological defects (problems in the electrical properties of biological cells) similar to other fly mutants used to study seizures. The researchers also show that altering the balance of two forms of the prickle gene disrupts neural information flow and causes epilepsy.
Further, they demonstrate that reducing either of two motor proteins responsible for directional movement of vesicles (small organelles within a cell that contain biologically important molecules) along tracks of structural proteins in axons can suppress the seizures.
"The reduction of either of two motor proteins, called Kinesins, fully suppressed the seizure
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University of Iowa