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UCI, French researchers find master switch for adult epilepsy
Date:6/27/2011

ut three dozen other important genes are altered by a major cellular repressor called NRSF, which increases after events that give rise to epilepsy.

NRSF proteins work by attaching to the DNA of selected genes and shutting them down, causing neurons to fire abnormally and promoting the development of epilepsy. This was discovered when Baram and her colleagues prevented NRSF from linking to HCN1 and other NRSF-regulated genes, the development of epilepsy was markedly lessened.

This NRSF binding process is an example of epigenetics enduring changes to gene expression without changes to the DNA sequence. Baram said the study is the first to show the significance of epigenetic mechanisms in the formation of epilepsy. The findings also point to NRSF having a larger role in influencing brain activity.

"NRSF operates like a master switch on many genes affecting neuron function," said Shawn McClelland, UCI researcher and study co-author. "And if its levels increase, it can provoke changes lasting for years."

"We're quite excited about this discovery," Baram said. "Understanding how previous brain infections, seizures or injuries can interact with the cellular machinery to cause epilepsy is a crucial step toward designing drugs to prevent the process. We don't want to just treat people with epilepsy. We hope to develop medicines that will prevent epilepsy from occurring and influence the lives of millions of people around the globe."

The founder of UCI's Epilepsy Research Center, Baram is considered the world's leading investigator of the basic neural mechanisms involved in childhood febrile seizures those caused by high fever and how prolonged febrile seizures might lead to the onset of TLE.


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Contact: Tom Vasich
tmvasich@uci.edu
949-824-6455
University of California - Irvine
Source:Eurekalert

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