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Dietary Supplement Dampens Brain Hyperexcitability Seen in Epilepsy

Summary: Researchers were able to dampen hyperexcitability associated with seizure disorders in rodent models by inducing biochemical alterations with glucosamine, a dietary supplement.

Source: University of Alabama at Birmingham

Seizure disorders — including epilepsy — are associated with pathological hyperexcitability in brain neurons. Unfortunately, there are limited available treatments that can prevent this hyperexcitability. However, University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers have found that inducing a biochemical alteration in brain proteins via the dietary supplement glucosamine was able to rapidly dampen that pathological hyperexcitability in rat and mouse models.

These results represent a potentially novel therapeutic target for the treatment of seizure disorders, and they show the need to better understand the physiology underlying these neural and brain circuit changes.

Proteins are the workhorses of living cells, and their activities are tightly and rapidly regulated in responses to changing conditions. Adding or removing a phosphoryl group to proteins is a well-known regulator for many proteins, and it is estimated that human proteins may have as many as 230,000 sites for phosphorylation.

A lesser-known regulation comes from the addition or removal of N-acetylglucosamine to proteins, which is usually controlled by glucose, the primary fuel for neurons. Several years ago, neuroscientist Lori McMahon, Ph.D., professor of cell, developmental and integrative biology at UAB, found out from her colleague John Chatham, D.Phil., a UAB professor of pathology and a cardiac physiologist, that brain cells had the second-highest amounts of proteins with N-acetylglucosamine, or O-GlcNAcylation, in the body.

At the time, very little was known about how O-GlcNAcylation might affect brain function, so McMahon and Chatham started working together. In 2014, McMahon and Chatham, in a study led by graduate student Erica Taylor and colleagues, reported that acute increases in protein O-GlcNAcylation caused long-term synaptic depression, a reduction in neuronal synaptic strength, in the hippocampus of the brain. This was the first time acute changes in O-GlcNAcylation of neuronal proteins were shown to directly change synaptic function.

Since neural excitability in the hippocampus is a key feature of seizures and epilepsy, they hypothesized that acutely increasing protein O-GlcNAcylation might dampen the pathological hyperexcitability associated with these brain disorders.

That turned out to be the case, as reported in the Journal of Neuroscience study, “Acute increases in protein O-GlcNAcylation dampen epileptiform activity in hippocampus.” The study was led by corresponding author McMahon and first author Luke Stewart, a doctoral student in the Neuroscience Theme of the Graduate Biomedical Sciences Program. Stewart is co-mentored by McMahon and Chatham.

“Our findings support the conclusion that protein O-GlcNAcylation is a regulator of neuronal excitability, and it represents a promising target for further research on seizure disorder therapeutics,” they wrote in their research significance statement. The researchers caution that the mechanism underlying the dampening is likely to be complex.

Research details

Glucose, the major fuel for neurons, also controls the levels of protein O-GlcNAcylation on proteins. However, high levels of the dietary supplement glucosamine, or an inhibitor of the enzyme that removes O-GlcNAcylation, leads to rapid increases in O-GlcNAc levels.

In experiments with hippocampal brain slices treated to induce a stable and ongoing hyperexcitability, UAB researchers found that an acute increase in protein O-GlcNAcylation significantly decreased the sudden bursts of electrical activity known as epileptiform activity in area CA1 of the hippocampus. An increased protein O-GlcNAcylation in normal cells also protected against a later induction of drug-induced hyperexcitability.

The effects were seen in slices treated with both glucosamine and an inhibitor of the enzyme that removes O-GlcNAc groups. They also found that treatment with glucosamine alone for as short a time as 10 minutes was able to dampen ongoing drug-induced hyperexcitability.

Image shows a diagram of the hippocampus.

In experiments with hippocampal brain slices treated to induce a stable and ongoing hyperexcitability, UAB researchers found that an acute increase in protein O-GlcNAcylation significantly decreased the sudden bursts of electrical activity known as epileptiform activity in area CA1 of the hippocampus. NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.

In common with the long-term synaptic depression provoked by increased O-GlcNAcylation, the dampening of hyperexcitability required the GluA2 subunit of the AMPA receptor, which is a glutamate-gated ion channel responsible for fast synaptic transmission in the brain. This finding suggested a conserved mechanism for the two changes provoked by increased O-GlcNAcylation — synaptic depression and dampening of hyperexcitability.

The researchers also found that the spontaneous firing of pyramidal neurons in another region of hippocampus, area CA3, was reduced by increased O-GlcNAcylation in normal brain slices and in slices with drug-induced hyperexcitability. This reduction in spontaneous firing of CA3 pyramidal neurons likely contributes to decreased hyperexcitability in area CA1 since the CA3 neurons directly excite those in CA1.

Similar to the findings for brain slices, mice that were treated to increase O-GlcNAcylation before getting drug-induced hyperexcitability had fewer of the brain activity spikes associated with epilepsy that are called interictal spikes. Several drug-induced hyperexcitable mice had convulsive seizures during the experiments — this occurred in both the increased O-GlcNAcylation mice and the control mice. Brain activity during the seizures differed between these two groups: The peak power of the brain activity for the mice with increased O-GlcNAcylation occurred at a lower frequency, as compared with the control mice.

About this neuroscience research article

Co-authors with McMahon, Chatham and Stewart in the Journal of Neuroscience study are Anas Khan, Kai Wang and Michelle Olsen, UAB Department of Cell, Developmental and Integrative Biology; Diana Pizarro and Sandip Pati, UAB Department of Neurology; and Sue Buckingham, UAB Department of Neurobiology.

At UAB, McMahon holds the Jarman F. Lowder Endowed Professorship in Neuroscience.

Funding: Funding for the research came from the National Institutes of Health grant NS076312 and NIH pre-doctoral fellowship NS095568.

Source: Jeff Hansen – University if Alabama at Birmingham
Image Source: NeuroscienceNews.com images is in the public domain.
Original Research: Abstract for “Acute Increases in Protein O-GlcNAcylation Dampen Epileptiform Activity in Hippocampus” by Luke T. Stewart, Anas U. Khan, Kai Wang, Diana Pizarro, Sandipan Pati, Susan C. Buckingham, Michelle L. Olsen, John C. Chatham and Lori L. McMahon in Journal of Neuroscience. Published online August 23 2017 doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0173-16.2017

Cite This NeuroscienceNews.com Article
University if Alabama at Birmingham “Dietary Supplement Dampens Brain Hyperexcitability Seen in Epilepsy.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 16 October 2017.
<http://neurosciencenews.com/epilepsy-dietary-supplement-7744/>.
University if Alabama at Birmingham (2017, October 16). Dietary Supplement Dampens Brain Hyperexcitability Seen in Epilepsy. NeuroscienceNews. Retrieved October 16, 2017 from http://neurosciencenews.com/epilepsy-dietary-supplement-7744/
University if Alabama at Birmingham “Dietary Supplement Dampens Brain Hyperexcitability Seen in Epilepsy.” http://neurosciencenews.com/epilepsy-dietary-supplement-7744/ (accessed October 16, 2017).

Abstract

Acute Increases in Protein O-GlcNAcylation Dampen Epileptiform Activity in Hippocampus

O-GlcNAcylation is a ubiquitous and dynamic post-translational modification involving the O-linkage of β-N-acetylglucosamine to serine/threonine residues of membrane, cytosolic, and nuclear proteins. This modification is similar to phosphorylation and regarded as a key regulator of cell survival and homeostasis. Previous studies have shown that phosphorylation of serine residues on synaptic proteins is a major regulator of synaptic strength and long-term plasticity, suggesting that O-GlcNAcylation of synaptic proteins is likely as important as phosphorylation; however, few studies have investigated its role in synaptic efficacy. We recently demonstrated that acutely increasing O-GlcNAcylation induces a novel form of LTD at CA3-CA1 synapses, O-GlcNAc LTD. Here, using hippocampal slices from young adult male rats and mice, we report that epileptiform activity at CA3-CA1 synapses, generated by GABAAR inhibition, is significantly attenuated when protein O-GlcNAcylation is pharmacologically increased. This dampening effect is lost in slices from GluA2 KO mice, indicating a requirement of GluA2-containing AMPARs, similar to expression of O-GlcNAc LTD. Furthermore, we find that increasing O-GlcNAcylation decreases spontaneous CA3 pyramidal cell activity under basal and hyperexcitable conditions. This dampening effect was also observed on cortical hyperexcitability during in vivo EEG recordings in awake mice where the effects of the proconvulsant pentylenetetrazole are attenuated by acutely increasing O-GlcNAcylation. Collectively, these data demonstrate that the post-translational modification, O-GlcNAcylation, is a novel mechanism by which neuronal and synaptic excitability can be regulated, and suggest the possibility that increasing O-GlcNAcylation could be a novel therapeutic target to treat seizure disorders and epilepsy.

SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT We recently reported that an acute pharmacological increase in protein O-GlcNAcylation induces a novel form of long-term synaptic depression at hippocampal CA3-CA1 synapses (O-GlcNAc LTD). This synaptic dampening effect on glutamatergic networks suggests that increasing O-GlcNAcylation will depress pathological hyperexcitability. Using in vitro and in vivo models of epileptiform activity, we show that acutely increasing O-GlcNAc levels can significantly attenuate ongoing epileptiform activity and prophylactically dampen subsequent seizure activity. Together, our findings support the conclusion that protein O-GlcNAcylation is a regulator of neuronal excitability, and it represents a promising target for further research on seizure disorder therapeutics.

“Acute Increases in Protein O-GlcNAcylation Dampen Epileptiform Activity in Hippocampus” by Luke T. Stewart, Anas U. Khan, Kai Wang, Diana Pizarro, Sandipan Pati, Susan C. Buckingham, Michelle L. Olsen, John C. Chatham and Lori L. McMahon in Journal of Neuroscience. Published online August 23 2017 doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0173-16.2017

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