Genetic approaches to studying mouse models of human seizure disorders.

Document Type


Publication Date



Epilepsy, Humans, Mice-Transgenic

JAX Source

Adv Exp Med Biol 2004; 548:1-11


In conclusion, we have discussed a reverse genetics approach to studying seizure disorders in mice (Fig. 1), employing a targeted mutagenesis method to exploit the genetic defects identified in human epilepsy families. After detailed characterization of the nature of the human mutation and the mouse counterpart gene, a targeting vector containing the human disease allele is created. The endogenous mouse gene is replaced by the human disease allele through homologous recombination in ES cells, leading to the generation of chimeric animals. Mice carrying one copy or both copies of the human mutation can be bred to study the phenotypic effect of heterozygous and homozygous mutations. At this stage, one may want to split the newly created mice into two groups. One group will go through seizure phenotyping tests, while the other group will be used to generate disease allele-carrying mice on a different genetic background. Phenotypic characterization of mice on different inbred strains includes behavioral monitoring and EEG analysis looking for the occurrence of spontaneous seizures, as well as routine cage examination looking for handling-provoked seizure and ECT- and PTZ- induced seizure paradigms looking for sensitivity to these stimuli. A complete evaluation of the seizure phenotype at the whole-animal level establishes the relevance of the mouse model to the human condition. Further investigation including imaging, electrophysiology and AED response in these mouse models will shed light on the mechanistic basis of the convulsive disorder. Current epilepsy research in mouse genetics offers promise for understanding the molecular mechanisms that underlie epileptogenesis in humans. A large-scale forward genetic effort to create novel mouse mutants with seizure phenotypes by in vivo chemical mutagenesis with ethyl-nitroso urea (ENU) is underway at the Jackson Laboratory (http://www.jax.org/nmf/). Genetic mapping and isolation of the affected genes in these seizure-prone models will provide additional molecular pathways involved in seizures. The mutant mice generated through both forward and reverse genetic approaches will be a valuable resource for the biomedical community to study epilepsy at the molecular level and to characterize the pathological consequences of seizures in the whole organism.

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