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Cellular prion proteins (PrPc) are essential to balanced neuronal transmission to the central nervous system. This is the conclusion of a study published in PLoS ONE by a group of researchers from the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC) and the University of Barcelona (UB), lead by professor José Antonio Del Río, with collaboration from other scientists from the University of Pablo de Olavide in Seville and the National Institute for Agrifood Research and Technology (INIA).

This new discovery has made it possible to prove, for the first time, that both the absence and the excess of this protein affect the balance of neuronal transmission and increase the possibility of suffering serious epileptic episodes.

Balanced neuronal transmission is produced by a combination of mechanisms that excite and inhibit the neurons in the central nervous system. This study shows that the absence of PrPc alters the mechanisms that excite this system. In a normal state, protein levels are also normal. Therefore, researchers expected to find increased protection against epileptic episodes when there was an abundance of PrPc, but study results showed just the opposite. The central nervous system becomes even more excited when this protein is lacking. These results allowed researchers to conclude that this protein, in normal levels, is essential to maintaining balanced neurotransmission to the central nervous system.

Researchers from the IBEC and the UB that participated in this study are currently developing a project that would characterize the differences in expression and modification of the prion protein in epileptic patients.

There are 151 researchers and technicians on staff at the IBEC, from the UB, UPC or other research hiring programs like ICREA and Ramón y Cajal (MEC).

More information:
Article Regulation of GABAA and Glutamate Receptor Expression, Synaptic Facilitation and Long-Term Potentiation in the Hippocampus of Prion Mutant Mice. Authors: Alejandra Rangel, Noelia Madroñal, Agnès Gruart, Rosalina Gavín, Franc Llorens, Lauro Sumoy, Juan María Torres, José María Delgado-García and José Antonio Del Río.

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