Gene therapy mediated seizure suppression in Genetic Generalised Epilepsy: Neuropeptide Y overexpression in a rat model

Kim L. Powell, Xavier Fitzgerald, Claire Shallue, Valentina Jovanovska, Matthias Klugmann, Georg Von Jonquieres, Terence J. O'Brien, Margaret J. Morris

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Neuropeptide Y (NPY) is an important 36 amino acid peptide that is abundantly expressed in the mammalian CNS and is known to be an endogenous modulator of seizure activity, including in rat models of Genetic Generalised Epilepsy (GGE) with absence seizures. Studies have shown that viral-mediated “gene therapy” with overexpression of NPY in the hippocampus can suppress seizures in acquired epilepsy animal models. This study investigated whether NPY gene delivery to the thalamus or somatosensory cortex, using recombinant adeno-associated viral vector (rAAV), could produce sustained seizure suppression in the GAERS model of GGE with absence seizures. Three cohorts of GAERS were injected bilaterally into the thalamus (short term n = 14 and long term n = 8) or the somatosensory cortex (n = 26) with rAAV-NPY or rAAV-empty. EEG recordings were acquired weekly post-treatment and seizure expression was quantified. Anxiety levels were tested using elevated plus maze and open field test. NPY and NPY receptor mRNA and protein expression were evaluated using quantitative PCR, immunohistochemistry and immunofluorescence. Viral overexpression of human NPY in the thalamus and somatosensory cortex in GAERS significantly reduced the time spent in seizure activity and number of seizures, whereas seizure duration was only reduced after thalamic NPY overexpression. Human and rat NPY and rat Y2 receptor mRNA expression was significantly increased in the somatosensory cortex. NPY overexpression in the thalamus was observed in rAAV-NPY treated rats compared to controls in the long term cohort. No effect was observed on anxiety behaviour. We conclude that virally-mediated human NPY overexpression in the thalamus or somatosensory cortex produces sustained anti-epileptic effects in GAERS. NPY gene therapy may represent a novel approach for the treatment of patients with genetic generalised epilepsies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-32
Number of pages10
JournalNeurobiology of Disease
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2018

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