Image of the Day: Seizure Proteins

The sei ion channel in fruit flies keeps their neuronal excitability in check.

Aug 14, 2019
Nicoletta Lanese
Neurons in the ventral ganglion of the fly, a structure homologous to the spinal cord, produce the sei protein (green). All cell nuclei are shown in blue, and other neurons are shown in magenta. Scale bar is 20 μm. 
ALEXIS HILL

A protective gene helps prevent heat-induced seizures in fruit flies and may relate to disease mechanisms in humans, researchers reported August 8 in PLOS Genetics. The seizure gene, sei for short, codes for a voltage-gated potassium channel found throughout the nervous system and heart. When intact, the channels prevent neurons from becoming overactive in response to environmental stressors, such as extreme heat. The researchers found that when sei is mutated in specific brain cell populations, this safeguard fails and flies begin to seize.

Coauthor Yehuda Ben-Shahar and his colleagues suggest in a press release that the human equivalent of sei, called hERG, likely plays a role in seizures and related pathologies.

A.S. Hill et al., “The Drosophila ERG channel seizure plays a role in the neuronal homeostatic stress response,” doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1008288, PLOS Genet, 2019.

Nicoletta Lanese is an intern at The Scientist. Email her at nlanese@the-scientist.com.