News of the WeekNeurobiology

Steadying Influence for Neurons Identified

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Science  04 Dec 1998:
Vol. 282, Issue 5395, pp. 1794-1795
DOI: 10.1126/science.282.5395.1794b

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On page 1890, researchers report that they have identified the two proteins that together make up the M-channel, a channel with a major influence on neuronal excitability that has remained mysterious until now. The work is being heralded partly because it will help researchers understand how neural excitation is controlled and partly because the M-channel may be a key target for drug development. Defects in genes encoding the channel proteins are known to cause a form of epilepsy, and M-channels are found in many brain areas including the hippocampus, where neural responsiveness can affect learning and memory. Knowing the identity of the channel's components could lead to new drugs for epilepsy or Alzheimer's disease.