• Absence epilepsy;
  • Differential mRNA display;
  • Hippocampus;
  • Cerebellum;
  • Gene expression;
  • Thalamocortical loop;
  • Computer modeling

Summary:  Purpose: We present results obtained by computer modeling of the thalamic network and differential gene expression analysis in a rat strain with absence epilepsy, the genetic absence epilepsy rat from Strasbourg (GAERS).

Methods: (a) Computer modeling used equations from the Hodgking–Huxley model with a circuit of 13 reticular thalamic (nRt) and 39 thalamocortical (TC) neurons; (b) gene-expression analysis using differential mRNA display (DD), in situ hybridization, Northern blotting, and competitive reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR).

Results: (a) Computer modeling showed an increased network synchrony in the thalamic circuit as the value of conductance of low-voltage activated calcium channel (LVACC) is increased. (b) Using differential mRNA display, a 40% upregulation of the H-ferritin mRNA in the hippocampus was demonstrated. Looking for some candidate genes of the VACC family, no difference was found in the α1G mRNA expression between GAERS and control animals, whereas a decreased expression of the α1E subunit was observed in the cerebellum and the brainstem of the GAERS. This phenomenon was not observed in young animals when the epileptic phenotype is not expressed.

Conclusions: The use of computer modeling appeared to be an efficient way to evaluate the impacts of electrophysiologic findings in vivo from single cells on an entire circuit. No clear single gene defect was revealed so far in GAERS. More information could arise from linkage analysis. However, some brain structures like hippocampus or cerebellum classically not known to be involved in the production of absence spike-and-wave discharges could in fact participate in the development of this phenotype.