Genetics of complex neurological disease: challenges and opportunities for modeling epilepsy in mice and rats.

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Trends Genet 2009 Aug; 25(8):361-7.


Currently, approximately 20 genetic variants are known to cause Mendelian forms of human epilepsy, leaving a vast heritability undefined. Rodent models for genetically complex epilepsy have been studied for many years, but only recently have strong candidate genes emerged, including Cacna1 g in the GAERS rat model of absence epilepsy and Kcnj10 in the low seizure threshold of DBA/2 mice. In parallel, a growing number of mouse mutations studied on multiple strain backgrounds reveal the impact of genetic modifiers on seizure severity, incidence or form--perhaps mimicking the complexity seen in humans. The field of experimental genetics in rodents is poised to study discrete epilepsy mutations on a diverse choice of strain backgrounds to develop better models and identify modifiers. But, it must find the right balance between embracing the strain diversity available, with the ability to detect and characterize genetic effects. Using alternative strain backgrounds when studying epilepsy mutations will enhance the modeling of epilepsy as a complex genetic disease.