More than a drug target: Purinergic signalling as a source for diagnostic tools in epilepsy


Zheng Wei Wong Tobias Engel




Epilepsy is one of the most common and disabling chronic neurological diseases affecting people of all ages. Major challenges of epilepsy management include the persistently high percentage of drug-refractoriness among patients, the absence of disease-modifying treatments, and its diagnosis and prognosis. To date, long-term video-electroencephalogram (EEG) recordings remain the gold standard for an epilepsy diagnosis. However, this is very costly, has low throughput, and in some instances has very limited availability. Therefore, much effort is put into the search for non-invasive diagnostic tests. Purinergic signalling, via extracellularly released adenosine triphosphate (ATP), is gaining increasing traction as a therapeutic strategy for epilepsy treatment which is supported by evidence from both experimental models and patients. This includes in particular the ionotropic P2X7 receptor. Besides that, other components from the ATPergic signalling cascade such as the metabotropic P2Y receptors (e.g., P2Y1 receptor) and ATP-release channels (e.g., pannexin-1), have also been shown to contribute to seizures and epilepsy. In addition to the therapeutic potential of purinergic signalling, emerging evidence has also shown its potential as a diagnostic tool. Following seizures and epilepsy, the concentration of purines in the blood and the expression of different compounds of the purinergic signalling cascade are significantly altered. Herein, this review will provide a detailed discussion of recent findings on the diagnostic potential of purinergic signalling for epilepsy management and the prospect of translating it for clinical application. This article is part of the Special Issue on ‘Purinergic Signaling: 50 years’.


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