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Genes Brain Behav. 2009 Apr;8(3):290-5. doi: 10.1111/j.1601-183X.2008.00471.x. Epub 2008 Dec 17.

Haploinsufficiency of glutamine synthetase increases susceptibility to experimental febrile seizures.

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1
Department of Neuroscience and Pharmacology, Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, the Netherlands.

Abstract

Glutamine synthetase (GS) is a pivotal glial enzyme in the glutamate-glutamine cycle. GS is important in maintaining low extracellular glutamate concentrations and is downregulated in the hippocampus of temporal lobe epilepsy patients with mesial-temporal sclerosis, an epilepsy syndrome that is frequently associated with early life febrile seizures (FS). Human congenital loss of GS activity has been shown to result in brain malformations, seizures and death within days after birth. Recently, we showed that GS knockout mice die during embryonic development and that haploinsufficient GS mice have no obvious abnormalities or behavioral seizures. In the present study, we investigated whether reduced expression/activity of GS in haploinsufficient GS mice increased the susceptibility to experimentally induced FS. FS were elicited by warm-air-induced hyperthermia in 14-day-old mice and resulted in seizures in most animals. FS susceptibility was measured as latencies to four behavioral FS characteristics. Our phenotypic data show that haploinsufficient mice are more susceptible to experimentally induced FS (P < 0.005) than littermate controls. Haploinsufficient animals did not differ from controls in hippocampal amino acid content, structure (Nissl and calbindin), glial properties (glial fibrillary acidic protein and vimentin) or expression of other components of the glutamate-glutamine cycle (excitatory amino acid transporter-2 and vesicular glutamate transporter-1). Thus, we identified GS as a FS susceptibility gene. GS activity-disrupting mutations have been described in the human population, but heterozygote mutations were not clearly associated with seizures or epilepsy. Our results indicate that individuals with reduced GS activity may have reduced FS seizure thresholds. Genetic association studies will be required to test this hypothesis.

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