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New research provides insight into epilepsy

Jrgen Kjems and Morten Trillingsgaard Ven, Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics and the Interdisciplinary Nanoscience Centre (iNANO), contribute to an article on microRNA-128 just published in Science. In the experiments on mice, it was possible to control the amount of microRNA-128 in specific neurons that react to the signal substance dopamine. "If microRNA-128 is kept down in these neurons in neonatal mice, it results in a strong phenotype," explains Morten T. Ven. "It leads to a higher level of activity, which means the mice move more, develop epilepsy and finally die of the seizures," he clarifies.

Morten T. Ven, postdoc. at the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, has worked with the leader of the project Anne Schaefer during his PhD degree programme.

Here he worked on an advanced technology, where it is possible to see how microRNA binds to the mRNA.

MicroRNA works by binding to so-called Ago proteins and guiding these proteins to specific locations on the mRNA. The mRNAs are the copies of the DNA's genes, which are translated directly into protein.

The Ago proteins bind to both the microRNA and the mRNA at the same time, which either means that the mRNAs are broken down, or that the so-called translation into protein is otherwise hindered.

Morten T. Ven and Anne Schaefer worked with special mice, which had been genetically modified to produce a special type of Ago protein in the brain's neurons.

This special Ago protein, together with the RNA that was bound to it, could be purified from the brain tissue of the mice with the help of an antibody. The researchers were thus able to determine where the different microRNA in the neurons bind.

MicroRNA-128 turned out to be the microRNA that controls the greatest number of mRNAs in the brains of the mice - more specifically in the neurons!

Experiments on mice

Together with his former supervisor Jrgen Kj

Contact: Morten Trillingsgaard Venø
Aarhus University

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