March 25, 2021

Study Maps Key Proteins Linked to Epilepsy, Revealing New Drug Targets

Summary, originally published by NYU Langone Health / NYU School of Medicine

An analysis of adult human brain tissue reveals over 900 proteins tied to epilepsy. The brain disorder, estimated to afflict more than 3 million Americans, is mostly known for symptoms of hallucinations, dreamlike states, and uncontrolled, often disabling bodily seizures.

Led by researchers at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, the study examined molecular differences among the brains of 14 epilepsy patients and another group of 14 adults of similar age and gender who did not have the disease.

Study results showed that altered levels of brain proteins predominated in the hippocampus, a structure located deep inside the skull and responsible for memory and learning. However, some 134 proteins were significantly changed in both the hippocampus and frontal cortex, the front third of the brain, which is also responsible for controlling thought and body movements. Most of the changed proteins were tied to genes in charge of protein production and linked to epilepsy in much smaller, earlier studies, but four of the 20 most-altered proteins had never previously been associated with the disorder.

One particular protein, researchers say, stood out as the most significantly depleted across all brain regions. Called G Protein Subunit 1, or GNB1, the protein is known to play an important role in dozens of biological reactions, or pathways, involved in nerve growth and communication throughout the brain, but they say its precise role in epilepsy remains unclear.

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