Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that arises from abnormal electrical activity in the brain leading to seizures. These seizure events can have a variety of causes, including genetic variants in a family of proteins that regulate potassium ions in the brain. Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis have led an international team to take a close look at the mechanisms behind the function and dysfunction of these proteins, as well as their interactions with an anti-epileptic drug, to develop a potential new strategy to treat epilepsy.
Jianmin Cui, a professor of biomedical engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering, and Nien-Du Yang, a doctoral student who conducts research in Cui’s lab, teamed up with Harley Kurata, associate professor of pharmacology at the University of Alberta, and investigated the working mechanism of two potassium ion channels, KCNQ2 and KCNQ3. Their findings uncovered a conserved mechanism for KCNQ channel activation that is a target of both epilepsy-linked mutations and a small molecule compound.