Modifications of seizure susceptibility in Drosophila

J Neurophysiol. 2000 Feb;83(2):998-1009. doi: 10.1152/jn.2000.83.2.998.


In a given population, certain individuals are much more likely to have seizures than others. This increase in seizure susceptibility can lead to spontaneous seizures, such as seen in idiopathic epilepsy, or to symptomatic seizures that occur after insults to the nervous system. Despite the frequency of these seizure disorders in the human population, the genetic and physiological basis for these defects remains unclear. The present study makes use of Drosophila as a potentially powerful model for understanding seizure susceptibility in humans. In addition to the genetic and molecular advantages of using Drosophila, it has been found that seizures in Drosophila share much in common with seizures seen in humans. However, the most powerful aspect of this model lies in the ability to accurately measure seizure susceptibility across genotypes and over time. In the current study seizure susceptibility was quantified in a variety of mutant and wild-type strains, and it was found that genetic mutations can modulate susceptibility over an extremely wide range. This genetic modulation of seizure susceptibility apparently occurs without affecting the threshold of individual neurons. Seizure susceptibility also varied depending on the experience of the fly, decreasing immediately after a seizure and then gradually increasing over time. A novel phenomenon was also identified in which seizures are suppressed after certain high-intensity stimuli. These results demonstrate the utility of Drosophila as a model system for studying human seizure disorders and provide insights into the possible mechanisms by which seizure susceptibility is modified.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics*
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Electrophysiology
  • Epilepsy / genetics
  • Epilepsy / physiopathology*
  • Ganglia, Invertebrate / cytology
  • Ganglia, Invertebrate / physiology
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Genotype
  • Hemolymph
  • Heterozygote
  • Mutation
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Refractory Period, Electrophysiological
  • Seizures / genetics
  • Seizures / physiopathology