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J Neurosci. 2017 Oct 25;37(43):10278-10289. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1301-17.2017. Epub 2017 Sep 18.

Inhibition of IL-1β Signaling Normalizes NMDA-Dependent Neurotransmission and Reduces Seizure Susceptibility in a Mouse Model of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.

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Department of Neuroscience, Istituto di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico-Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche Mario Negri, 20156 Milan, Italy, and.
Neuroscience and Brain Technologies Department, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, 16163 Genoa, Italy.
Department of Neuroscience, Istituto di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico-Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche Mario Negri, 20156 Milan, Italy, and


Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) is a neurodegenerative disorder caused by prion protein (PrP) misfolding, clinically recognized by cognitive and motor deficits, electroencephalographic abnormalities, and seizures. Its neurophysiological bases are not known. To assess the potential involvement of NMDA receptor (NMDAR) dysfunction, we analyzed NMDA-dependent synaptic plasticity in hippocampal slices from Tg(CJD) mice, which model a genetic form of CJD. Because PrP depletion may result in functional upregulation of NMDARs, we also analyzed PrP knock-out (KO) mice. Long-term potentiation (LTP) at the Schaffer collateral-commissural synapses in the CA1 area of ∼100-d-old Tg(CJD) mice was comparable to that of wild-type (WT) controls, but there was an inversion of metaplasticity, with increased GluN2B phosphorylation, which is indicative of enhanced NMDAR activation. Similar but less marked changes were seen in PrP KO mice. At ∼300 d of age, the magnitude of LTP increased in Tg(CJD) mice but decreased in PrP KO mice, indicating divergent changes in hippocampal synaptic responsiveness. Tg(CJD) but not PrP KO mice were intrinsically more susceptible than WT controls to focal hippocampal seizures induced by kainic acid. IL-1β-positive astrocytes increased in the Tg(CJD) hippocampus, and blocking IL-1 receptor signaling restored normal synaptic responses and reduced seizure susceptibility. These results indicate that alterations in NMDA-dependent glutamatergic transmission in Tg(CJD) mice do not depend solely on PrP functional loss. Moreover, astrocytic IL-1β plays a role in the enhanced synaptic responsiveness and seizure susceptibility, suggesting that targeting IL-1β signaling may offer a novel symptomatic treatment for CJD.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Dementia and myoclonic jerks develop in individuals with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), an incurable brain disorder caused by alterations in prion protein structure. These individuals are prone to seizures and have high brain levels of the inflammatory cytokine IL-1β. Here we show that blocking IL-1β receptors with anakinra, the human recombinant form of the endogenous IL-1 receptor antagonist used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, normalizes hippocampal neurotransmission and reduces seizure susceptibility in a CJD mouse model. These results link neuroinflammation to defective neurotransmission and the enhanced susceptibility to seizures in CJD and raise the possibility that targeting IL-1β with clinically available drugs may be beneficial for symptomatic treatment of the disease.


Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease; IL-1 receptor antagonist; prion; seizures; synaptic plasticity; transgenic mice

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