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Published December 7, 2005 | Published
Journal Article Open

Novel Seizure Phenotype and Sleep Disruptions in Knock-In Mice with Hypersensitive α4* Nicotinic Receptors


A leucine to alanine substitution (L9′A) was introduced in the M2 region of the mouse α4 neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) subunit. Expressed in Xenopus oocytes, α4(L9′A)β2 nAChRs were ≥30-fold more sensitive than wild type (WT) to both ACh and nicotine. We generated knock-in mice with the L9′A mutation and studied their cellular responses, seizure phenotype, and sleep-wake cycle. Seizure studies on α4-mutated animals are relevant to epilepsy research because all known mutations linked to autosomal dominant nocturnal frontal lobe epilepsy (ADNFLE) occur in the M2 region of α4or β2 subunits. Thalamic cultures and synaptosomes from L9′A mice were hypersensitive to nicotine-induced ion flux. L9′A mice were ∼15-fold more sensitive to seizures elicited by nicotine injection than their WT littermates. Seizures in L9′A mice differed qualitatively from those in WT: L9′A seizures started earlier, were prevented by nicotine pretreatment, lacked EEG spike-wave discharges, and consisted of fast repetitive movements. Nicotine-induced seizures in L9′A mice were partial, whereas WT seizures were generalized. When L9′A homozygous mice received a 10 mg/kg nicotine injection, there was temporal and phenomenological separation of mutant and WT-like seizures: an initial seizure ∼20 s after injection was clonic and showed no EEG changes. A second seizure began 3-4 min after injection, was tonic-clonic, and had EEG spike-wave activity. No spontaneous seizures were detected in L9′A mice during chronic video/EEG recordings, but their sleep-wake cycle was altered. Our findings show that hypersensitive α4* nicotinic receptors in mice mediate changes in the sleep-wake cycle and nicotine-induced seizures resembling ADNFLE.

Additional Information

© 2005 Society for Neuroscience. Received Feb. 9, 2005; revised Oct. 18, 2005; accepted Oct. 21, 2005. This work was supported by National Institute of Health Grants NS46464, NS43800, NS11756, DA10156, DA03194, and DA17279 and a National Institutes of Health–National Research Service Award (C.F.). The California Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program and Philip Morris USA/International are gratefully acknowledged. We thank J. Stitzel for the mouse α4 cDNA, Chana Simon for oocyte data analysis, Robert Paz for help with photography, and Sharon Grady, Andrew Tapper, and Johannes Schwarz for insightful discussion.

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