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Epilepsy Res. 2012 Jul;100(3):229-38. doi: 10.1016/j.eplepsyres.2011.07.014. Epub 2011 Aug 30.

Purines and neuronal excitability: links to the ketogenic diet.

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  • 1Neuroscience Program and Psychology Department, Trinity College, Hartford, CT 06106, USA.


ATP and adenosine are purines that play dual roles in cell metabolism and neuronal signaling. Acting at the A(1) receptor (A(1)R) subtype, adenosine acts directly on neurons to inhibit excitability and is a powerful endogenous neuroprotective and anticonvulsant molecule. Previous research showed an increase in ATP and other cell energy parameters when an animal is administered a ketogenic diet, an established metabolic therapy to reduce epileptic seizures, but the relationship among purines, neuronal excitability and the ketogenic diet was unclear. Recent work in vivo and in vitro tested the specific hypothesis that adenosine acting at A(1)Rs is a key mechanism underlying the success of ketogenic diet therapy and yielded direct evidence linking A(1)Rs to the antiepileptic effects of a ketogenic diet. Specifically, an in vitro mimic of a ketogenic diet revealed an A(1)R-dependent metabolic autocrine hyperpolarization of hippocampal neurons. In parallel, applying the ketogenic diet in vivo to transgenic mouse models with spontaneous electrographic seizures revealed that intact A(1)Rs are necessary for the seizure-suppressing effects of the diet. This is the first direct in vivo evidence linking A(1)Rs to the antiepileptic effects of a ketogenic diet. Other predictions of the relationship between purines and the ketogenic diet are discussed. Taken together, recent research on the role of purines may offer new opportunities for metabolic therapy and insight into its underlying mechanisms.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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