To understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms that underlie generalized absence seizures sufficiently well to design rational, efficacious new therapies for patients, it is necessary to turn to animal models to gain insights into these mechanisms. The lethargic (lh/lh) mutant mouse expresses spontaneous absence seizures that share behavioral, electrographic, and anticonvulsant profiles with absence seizures in patients. This validates its use to study the mechanisms that underlie absence seizures. This chapter discusses two scientific approaches that involve the use of lh/lh mice. The first part of the chapter discusses neurobiologic approaches used to investigate critical mechanisms that regulate the synchronized burst firing within the thalamocortical network that generates absence seizures. Two of these critical mechanisms have been studied in detail with lh/lh mice. The first critical mechanism involves the required activation of gamma-aminobutyric acid B (GABAB) receptors to generate absence seizures. Because the numbers of GABAB receptors are increased in thalamocortical populations among lh/lh mice compared with littermates without epilepsy, these receptors appear to play a pathophysiologic role in the expression of absence seizures among lh/lh mice. Moreover, there may be a role for GABAB receptors in the generation of absence seizures among humans, because administration of compounds that activate GABAB receptors can produce absence seizures among humans. These findings suggest that GABAB receptor antagonists may represent a new class of antiabsence compounds that will be efficacious against absence seizures among patients. A second critical mechanism that regulates generation of absence seizures involves GABAA receptors in the nucleus reticularis thalami (NRT), a nucleus that sends GABA-ergic afferents to thalamic relay nuclei. Activation of GABAA receptors in the NRT appears to suppress the generation of absence seizures among lh/lh mice and in other models. Moreover, clonazepam may exert its antiabsence actions through this mechanism. Together, these findings suggest that compounds that selectively activate GABAA receptor isoforms expressed in NRT may represent a class of antiabsence drugs that could have fewer side effects than compounds currently used to treat patients. The second part of the chapter discusses a molecular genetic approach to delineation of the mechanisms that underlie absence seizures. Absence seizures among lh/lh mice are caused by a single-gene defect on chromosome 2. If positional cloning and gene isolation techniques are successful, it will be possible to identify the lh disease gene. Subsequent studies of the lh gene product should greatly increase not only our understanding of the pathophysiologic basis for absence seizures among lh/lh mice but also our ability to seek similar mutations in homologous genes in human families that express absence seizures. Accordingly, strategies and progress in cloning and identifying the lh disease gene are presented.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||14|
|Journal||Advances in neurology|
|State||Published - 1999|