Brain function is controlled by the balance between the excitatory and inhibitory systems. If this balance is disrupted and the excitatory system dominates, convulsions or epileptic seizures are induced. Neuronal hyperexcitability in the brain leads to marked changes in the function of the neurons, which adversely affect the stability of the neural network. Many of the currently used antiepileptic drugs are symptomatic treatments that suppress the electrical hyperexcitability of the cerebrum. Although patients with epilepsy should continuously take antiepileptic drugs to control their seizures, approximately 20％ of patients are drug resistant. The brain has the ability to control neuronal functions within acceptable limits while it maintains the amount of synaptic inputs that form the basis of information accumulation. Neuronal self-regulation is known as homeostatic scaling by which the intensity of all excitatory synapses is suppressed when neuronal excitability is increased. However, the molecular mechanisms of homeostatic scaling and their pathophysiological significance in vivo remain unclear. Repeated treatment with a subconvulsive dosage of pentylenetetrazol (PTZ), aγ-aminobutyric acid (GABA)A receptor antagonist, is known to induce kindling in mice, which is a common animal model used to study epilepsy. We found that PTZ-induced kindling was potentiated in mice deficient in the transcription factor neuronal PAS domain protein 4 (Npas4), the expression of which is immediately induced in response to neuronal activity. At this symposium, we will discuss the possibility of Npas4 as a novel target molecule for epilepsy treatment.
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