Food deprivation attenuates seizures through CaMKII and EAG K+ channels

PLoS Genet. 2007 Sep;3(9):1622-32. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.0030156. Epub 2007 Jul 30.


Accumulated research has demonstrated the beneficial effects of dietary restriction on extending lifespan and increasing cellular stress resistance. However, reducing nutrient intake has also been shown to direct animal behaviors toward food acquisition. Under food-limiting conditions, behavioral changes suggest that neuronal and muscle activities in circuits that are not involved in nutrient acquisition are down-regulated. These dietary-regulated mechanisms, if understood better, might provide an approach to compensate for defects in molecules that regulate cell excitability. We previously reported that a neuromuscular circuit used in Caenorhabditis elegans male mating behavior is attenuated under food-limiting conditions. During periods between matings, sex-specific muscles that control movements of the male's copulatory spicules are kept inactive by UNC-103 ether-a-go-go-related gene (ERG)-like K(+) channels. Deletion of unc-103 causes approximately 30%-40% of virgin males to display sex-muscle seizures; however, when food is deprived from males, the incidence of spontaneous muscle contractions drops to 9%-11%. In this work, we used genetics and pharmacology to address the mechanisms that act parallel with UNC-103 to suppress muscle seizures in males that lack ERG-like K(+) channel function. We identify calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II as a regulator that uses different mechanisms in food and nonfood conditions to compensate for reduced ERG-like K(+) channel activity. We found that in food-deprived conditions, calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II acts cell-autonomously with ether-a-go-go K(+) channels to inhibit spontaneous muscle contractions. Our work suggests that upregulating mechanisms used by food deprivation can suppress muscle seizures.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • Calcium-Calmodulin-Dependent Protein Kinase Type 2
  • Calcium-Calmodulin-Dependent Protein Kinases / metabolism*
  • Caloric Restriction*
  • Ether-A-Go-Go Potassium Channels / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Muscle Contraction*
  • Muscles / enzymology
  • Muscles / metabolism
  • Muscles / physiology*
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal


  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • Ether-A-Go-Go Potassium Channels
  • Calcium-Calmodulin-Dependent Protein Kinase Type 2
  • Calcium-Calmodulin-Dependent Protein Kinases
  • unc-43 protein, C elegans