To develop a constitutively active K+ leak channel using TREK-1 (TWIK-related potassium channel 1; TREK-M) that is resistant to compensatory down-regulation by second messenger cascades, and to validate the ability of TREK-M to silence hyperactive neurons using cultured hippocampal neurons. To test if adenoassociated viral (AAV) delivery of TREK-M could reduce the duration of status epilepticus and reduce neuronal death induced by lithium-pilocarpine administration.
Molecular cloning techniques were used to engineer novel vectors to deliver TREK–M via plasmids, lentivirus, and AAV using a cytomegalovirus (CMV)-enhanced GABRA4 promoter. Electrophysiology was used to characterize the activity and regulation of TREK–M in human embryonic kidney (HEK-293) cells, and the ability to reduce spontaneous activity in cultured hippocampal neurons. Adult male rats were injected bilaterally with self-complementary AAV particles composed of serotype 5 capsid into the hippocampus and entorhinal cortex. Lithium-pilocarpine was used to induce status epilepticus. Seizures were monitored using continuous video–electroencephalography (EEG) monitoring. Neuronal death was measured using Fluoro-Jade C staining of paraformaldehyde-fixed brain slices.
TREK-M inhibited neuronal firing by hyperpolarizing the resting membrane potential and decreasing input resistance. AAV delivery of TREK-M decreased the duration of status epilepticus by 50%. Concomitantly it reduced neuronal death in areas targeted by the AAV injection.
These findings demonstrate that TREK-M can silence hyperexcitable neurons in the brain of epileptic rats and treat acute seizures. This study paves the way for an alternative gene therapy treatment of status epilepticus, and provides the rationale for studies of AAV-TREK-M's effect on spontaneous seizures in chronic models of temporal lobe epilepsy.